Booking its future

The Westfield Washington Public Library looks to renovate and expand with $2M project

The project includes a designated teen area for programming and study rooms.

After two years of planning, the Westfield Washington Public Library Board is ready to move forward on a $2 million project to add 10,000 square feet and renovate its current space to be more inviting and efficient.

“Our facility has needed a remodeling for at least nine years,” Library Director Sheryl Sollars said.

Sollars said the process began in 2009 when the board began long-term strategic planning by conducting a survey of Westfield residents.

“We received over 1,000 responses,” she said, adding that the survey centered on library services – what is done, not being done and what needed to be expanded.

After identifying the most important needs, Sollars explained that the proposed project will renovate the library, redesign some of the space for better operating efficiency and will also include a dedicated computer lab, quiet study rooms, a community/library programming room and a dedicated area for its teen patrons.

“I think our patrons want that library atmosphere,” said WWPL Board President Mike Thomas. “It’d be different if nobody came in … The Westfield community loves their library and uses it often. Our library circulated 475,199 items in 2010 compared to an average of 325,261 for other Indiana public libraries of similar size.”

Sollars said the facility renovation would include replacing carpets and repairing the bathrooms, which currently have tiles coming off the walls. Space reallocation will provide greater efficiency by creating one desk for check out. By reallocating space, Sollars said the already enclosed area can become a computer lab – computers are currently scattered across the library.

“Anywhere we can stick them is where we have them now,” she said. “Other libraries in the area all have them (computer labs) and have had them for several years.”

The 10,000-square-foot addition will provide a place for community interaction – one of the largest needs at the library. Sollars said the library has to turn down numerous requests from organizations because of a lack of space.

“The community room will provide a place for community meetings and allow the library another programming area,” she said. “Our programming continues to increase in attendance and we have not added any programming space since 1994 and actually have decreased the amount of space due to the elimination of the meeting room planned during that expansion.”

The community room has a capacity of 125 people and includes a kitchen.

“The library is basically our community room. There is no quiet place for studying or to do research,” said Sollars. “It’s an opportunity to meet some of the community needs. Outside organizations can use the library since there are not a whole lot of places in the community to meet. The possibilities are endless.”

Other needs met by the renovation include study rooms and small group meeting rooms that will provide patrons a quiet place to work or study, and a designated teen area.

“Currently the teen area is a small space carved out in the adult area,” explained Sollars. “This area is overcrowded and is unable to meet the needs of this part of the library’s clientele. The addition would provide this growing clientele a dedicated area.”

The Westfield tax rate is currently $2.995 per $100 of assessed value. At $0.0439, the library is the third smallest amount of the tax rate – behind solid waste, which is $0.00320, and township at $0.00830. Thomas said the $2 million bond will not raise the current tax rate, only prolong it. The current debt schedule has library bonds retiring in 2016, which would lower its tax rate 1.6 cents. If approved, the new bond would be added to the books as the other retires.

“We’re one half of 1 percent of the total tax rate,” said Thomas. “It’s not an increase, but we’ll phase in new bonds so the bonds stay level until 2022.”

Thomas said the board has looked at completing the construction in phases, but says that putting it all together in one bid is cheaper in the long run – it also ensures the project is completed earlier and not ongoing.

Tax Rate

In 2011, the Westfield tax rate is currently $2.995 per $100 of assessed value. At $0.0439, the library is the third smallest amount of the tax rate – behind solid waste which is $0.00320 and township at $0.00830. Compared to all public libraries within Hamilton County, Westfield has the lowest cost. Other county library tax rates from last year include: Carmel – $0.0682; Cicero/Atlanta – $0.0787; Noblesville/Fishers – $0.07560; and Sheridan – $0.1034. Each, like Westfield, is based on $100 of assessed value.

By law, the Westfield City Council has to approve any bonds issued by the library board. Once that approval has been granted, the board will proceed to sell bonds in the amount of $2 million. Any additional funds needed to complete the project will be raised independent of the bond.

“You have wonderful programs, but a terrible facility. You can’t be in there and be quiet and it’s unfortunate,” said Councilman Bob Dippel. “I think you’re doing a whale of a job for under a nickel.”

The council will hold a public comments portion during its June 11 meeting about the proposed project. Voting on the project may come at that meeting or the following one depending on the discretion of the council.

Thomas said the board plans to put the project out for bid early this summer. Sollars said the library will remain open during construction, which is expected to take three months to get ready for construction and six to nine months to complete.

History

1901 – The Westfield Public Library was first established. The first record of circulation was February 1902 with 605 items. The number of library cards issued since the library opened was 258.

1910 – WPL moved to the Main Street location (currently Cave Printing).

1915 – An addition was added to that building.

1983 – The library moved to its current location. The building had 11,680 square feet. Stats: Registered patrons, 1,437; and circulation of materials, 51,097.

1994 – WPL was renovated and expanded to 26,535 square feet. Stats: Registered patrons, 9,272; program attendance, 2,312; library visits per week, 1,089; computer usage per week, 106; and circulation of materials, 234,169.

2001 – The library had mold remediation, carpet replaced, HVAC improvements and the stone exterior was replaced by brick. Stats: registered patrons, 18,712; program attendance, 8,996; library visits per week, 2,100; computer usage per week, 125; and circulation of materials, 224,567.

2011 – Stats: Registered patrons, 19,418; program attendance, 23,131; library visits per week, 2,885; computer usage per week, 401; and circulation of materials, 453,799.