These are my comments that were given on June 10.
City Council June 10, 2013
Good evening Mayor and Council,
On May 9, just one month ago now, the DeKalb Public Library received an unexpected notice that we were awarded the entire amount for which we were eligible– .64 % of construction costs.
This amount is
Previously we had been awarded $8,544,127.49.
Let me put that amount of money into context. In this one time only capital project for library construction, there was only $50 million. DeKalb Public Library received $11,659,453.05 cents. Why so much to us? This complicated and competitive grant gave every library in the state a number on a grant index. We were rated quite high—we had had no recent construction, a high poverty rate, not meeting fire codes, etc.
However, I would like to quickly relate a few highlights of the one meeting we had with the executive management of the Illinois State Library, The executive director, four other high-level directors were there as well as Nathan Maddux, Senior Legal Counsel to the State of Illinois. This is an enormous amount of money. Everyone in the room was very familiar with the grant application, the status of our library building on the National Register of Historic Buildings and the scope and design of the proposed expansion. Everyone was completely satisfied with the grant application, the approval of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and wished us well in our local fundraising.
I think in our own hometown we do not recognize the importance of our building at the national level. Our building is an Art Deco building and as our building consultant often states, as far as he knows, there are only three—Los Angeles Public Library, the Library of Congress and us. We are an even smaller window of Art Deco, Art Moderne and perhaps we are the only library that is Art Moderne.
Certainly, the building has been lovingly and carefully maintained. We have hired architects who respect that architectural statement and are reflecting that respect in their complementary addition.
This difference of $3,085,326 will enable us to build and renovate in one phase instead of dividing the project into two phases as we discussed with you previously. The return to the original project as submitted in April of 2011 will save us escalation costs according to our construction experts of perhaps a million dollars.
The three local banks met and previously having each examined our books and structured the loan to be repaid through our current operating funds if private philanthropy does not meet our goals, all stepped forward to cover the additional amount needed. No further costs will go to the taxpayers.
With a very preliminary call for donors, we immediately raised over one million dollars in pledges and cash. Certainly, our fund raising efforts will go into high gear as soon as the contract with the State is signed.
The project has not changed at all. We simply have over $3 million more dollars to fund it.
We are grateful to the vision of Jacob Haish, Sven Parson and the Board of Trustees of 1930, to the Mayor and Council of 2012/2013, to the current Board of Trustees who have been working on bringing 21st century library services to our city since 2007, to the Secretary of State, Jesse White, who has worked tirelessly to fund public libraries, to Representative Pritchard who has always advocated for public libraries, and to the Illinois State Library and its representatives who have made this dream possible with full funding of our project.
These are my comments that were given on June 10.
Will it ever be spring? Although I love to watch all of the seasons from my favorite reading chair, I am ready– more than ready– to see leaves on the trees. I love to watch the birds but really know very few by name and although I work in a library, can check on any bird, I forget exactly what they look like before I can look them up. One of my favorite audio books was “To See Every Bird on Earth.” What a skill set to be able to identify by sound as well as by viewing all of the birds on earth. I encourage you to start thinking about bringing your children and/or grandchildren to the library for library cards and new materials. Check up on the birds in your back yard.
February 24, 2013
Thank you Mayor and Council for the opportunity to update you on the status of the DeKalb Public Library expansion project.
Since our last discussion in January, a delegation of DeKalb interested persons met with the Illinois State Library delegation. I want to commend the Secretary of State, Jesse White, who is also the official Illinois State Librarian for his well informed and courteous staff. The people in the room were Anne Craig, the executive Director of the Illinois State Library, Lawren Tucker, the Assistant Director, Nathan Maddox, senior legal counsel, Patricia Boze and Mark Shafer, construction grant administrators. Our group included Fred Schlipf, our building consultant, Rudy Espiritu asking questions on behalf of the City of DeKalb, Clark Neher, President of the Board of Trustees, Virginia Cassidy, and Vice President of the Board of Trustees and me as Director of the DeKalb Public Library.
Ms. Craig opened the meeting by saying she was very familiar with our library and DeKalb because she had gone to NIU and fondly remembered the cinnamon rolls at the Junction. All of the representatives of the State Library were extremely well informed about our project and the complexity of adding on to a building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
The first question was the bond issuance. The State does require that all money be in an account/s designated for the expansion before the State will issue its share. From that question, then the discussion turned to the entire financing of the project. Again, the State’s position is that all local portion funds be in the bank before the State will issue its OK which will be the signing of a contract. The State certainly understands the enormous hurdle we face.
Our discussion turned to the project itself. We are required to keep the footprint that was submitted in the grant application. The grant application required a letter of support from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. During a very productive and again courteous meeting between our architectural firm, Nagel Hartray and two architects from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, an agreement was reached that they supported this expansion because it preserved and remediated the current building in its entirety yet added on in a sympathetic manner. Also, the architects from the Illinois Historic Preservation agency had asked for documentation of how the expansion would fit into the existing community and again approved the basic concept and design.
Both the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Illinois State Library require constant updates on any changes to the original partial schematics.
After the meeting with the Illinois State Library, we have answers to our questions but leaving us more questions.
This is the area that librarians love: give us questions and we will research answers. The role of librarians is to search out information and let the patron make decisions based on that information. In this case, you the City Council and Mayor are the patron and we as a library will supply some of the questions and the information to answer those questions. You may have more questions: In fact, we may research more than you want to know .
1. Is there a need for an expansion?
2. What is the future of libraries?
3. Is there a return on investment on libraries?
4. How did you come up with that number of square feet?
5. Why so much money?
6. How is the library going to pay for the expansion?
7. Is this the right time?
8. What happens if we do nothing right now?
A picture speaks a thousand words. The lack of handicapped accessibility is a critical issue. When I presented our proposal before the City of DeKalb ‘s accessibility commission, the young man who graduated from law school but is immobile using only his mouth to type said he had never been in our library because his bed couldn’t get through the doors. Is there another public building in DeKalb that is so inaccessible?
1. There are several studies out and I have made a bookmark of some of them but I also recommend that you go to any city on the train line, starting with Elburn and go into one of the libraries. I believe all of them have new libraries including Chicago. Last Friday, I attended a meeting on the future of libraries at Elmhurst Public Library and I had to drive around the parking lot twice to find a parking place and this was at 9:30 on a Friday morning. One of the most popular features was the four glass enclosed work/meeting rooms that are lined up in a row. There were two that had groups working in them and two that had had individuals working. As the economy changes and more and more people are using entrepreneurial abilities to start businesses, they are using the public library as their neutral work space to meet clients, do research and use the library as their business center.
The other future of the library is happening already. The Illinois State Unemployment office is not only shutting down offices but they no longer accept paper applications. The official policy is to direct their clients to their local public library for assistance and Internet access.
In DeKalb, we are the only place to still provide paper IRS forms and we provide Saturday morning space for the tax aide people. We would like to do more but we have no other time available for our one public meeting room.
Certainly, we know the immediate future of government agencies of all types is to cut down on their staffing so people turn to their libraries even more. A reminder that currently we average 1,000 people a day.
2. Yes there are studies done on roi on libraries The most recent is a Texas study. https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/roi
Prepared for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Bureau of Business Research IC² Institute, The University of Texas at Austin, December 2012
Public libraries in the State of Texas provide significant economic benefits for their communities. This report examines these economic benefits, and documents those activities which contribute to economic activities throughout all regions of Texas. In 2011 Texas public libraries collectively were found to provide $2.407 billion in benefits while costing less than $0.545 billion, a return on investment of $4.42 for each dollar invested.
3. How did the library come up with that number of square feet?
Starting in 1970, The various Boards of Trustees commissioned studies to determine the need for space for library services.
In 2007, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the following resolution: The DeKalb Public Library, as the cornerstone of a growing and dynamic community, provides easily accessible information and a welcoming environment to all its patrons. In order to extend this standard of service, the Library’s Board of Trustees has resolved unanimously to expand and improve the Library’s services and facilities. To this end, the Board has hired two consulting firms, both of which recommend that the Library’s physical space be increased from 19,000 to 60,000 square feet. The Board of Trustees will continue to explore all available options for increasing the Library’s holdings, programming initiatives, and physical space.
They followed with two studies from two different architectural firms: BCA, FGM, and then hired Fred Schlipf, Ph.D. as their library building consultant. His first program called for 90,000+ sq. ft. His methodology was based on the requirements and standards of library service of the Illinois Library association. But was also based on a free standing building built new perhaps on the outskirts of town.
The Board then decided to stay downtown.
And looked at several parcels.
Then finally was able to purchase adjoining land enabling the library board to incorporate the current building into the design of an expansion.
However, the building program then was cut by 1/3 to fit within the surrounding community. There were 6 public input sessions to determine greatest needs and the continuing theme throughout all public input sessions which were held throughout the city and at differing times of the day to accommodate all who wanted to attend was public meeting rooms.
So our design needed to incorporate and remediate our current building, incorporate public meeting spaces of different sizes and be an integral and not dominating space within its current location.
This approach certainly earned us great respect at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and at the Illinois State Library but does leave us with the added burden of not having the ability to significantly change design.
4. Why so much money?
$4 million of the $24 million is to remediate and rehab the current building, $1 million is to remediate and move the infrastructure of 3rd Street and $19 million is for the new construction. The police station is costing $12 million and it will not have the structural requirements of 150 lbs. per sq. ft. nor the burden and joy of the challenge of meeting the beautiful art deco building we currently have.
Also, I personally live in a 100 +year old house and we have remodeled several times. At every one of those remodelings, we have run into surprises. Every expert we reach out to in preparation for this job, says to expect surprises—and to expect expensive surprises. The state library would only calculate about half the cost per sq. ft. for remodeling but literally every expert construction advisor has said that the remediation of the current building will cost at least as much per sq. ft. as the new construction.
We may not know the future of libraries but we do know that we need to plan for flexibility. There will be open rooms without soffits, as few rooms with doors, no permanent built in furniture. At least three feet between floors because libraries have embraced technology and we know it is the future. we have to plan for flexible space.
5. How are we going to pay for this?
If you decide to move now, we have 1/3 from the State Library. However, we are on their calendar. We have to decide if this is possible and move now. We are currently engaged in the private part of our fundraising, and what we hear is more questions: one of which is “Is the City going to agree to issue the second third in bonds.” That is a question only you can answer. Ms. Hennessey presented her expert financial guidance in January.
And then the final third which we have said we will raise. Again, I approached this question as a reference librarian:
a. We have spoken to all of the local foundations in this community for advice.
b. We have asked for advice from the American Library Association which is headquartered in Chicago and they sent one of their fundraisers to speak with us.
c. We have spoken with potential private donors
d. We have asked for advice from three of our local banks.
All agree that this is a question that calls for more research and problem solving. But we are on the clock of the Illinois State Library. We are going to be speaking with professional fundraising groups, we are going to look at what a bridge loan would look like, we are preparing a capital campaign which will go public within the month, we are receiving legal advice from the Illinois Library Association attorneys but tonight, we need to hear from you your questions, concerns, and do we move forward to see what the entire financial picture looks like as we zero in on the numbers.
And lastly questions 7 and 8 are really two parts of the same question: Is this the right time and what happens if we do nothing.
Certainly we know approximately $2 million will have to be spent on the current building to replace the 1960 HVAC and the 20 year old roof and flooring . I don’t know where that money will come from.
I want to share comments I receive every Friday night. I give the Nooks and Crannies tour and people want to help in every way—by being on committees and by giving money. I am completely positive about the outcome but again, as a reference librarian, I am just giving you information for your decision.
I was very pleased with all of the organization and comments at yesterday” downtown summit. I know the library contributes to the numbers coming downtown and using the shopping opportunities as well as dining oppotunities. Parking is certainly always on my mind because until recently, we did not have any parking. Now we have a lot for our staff to park and our patrons. We leave it open at all times for others to park there at night and on Sunday morning. Is parking important to you? Dee
Finished A Casual Vacancy last night. This is the new novel by the author of the Harry Potter books. You would not imagine that the same person wrote this book as well as Harry Potter. I am impressed. Although this book was dark, I was so captivated by the writing that I continued on. I heartily recommend it. Dee
Our beloved collegue Marge Dumsdorf has passed away. The library will be closed Friday morning so we can attend the funeral which will be Ronan Moore Finch across the street at 10:30 am. Dee
I am not a diarist or a journal keeper — always a reader– so I have not kept up the blog as I should. However, we now have so much good news that I will try to update this site at least weekly and maybe more often.
The Illinois State Library has given us an enormous gift, challenge, incentive– however we look at it. The amount of money they have committed to our expansion project is $8 and 1/2 million dollars!!
To put that into perspective, there was “only” $50 million for the whole state for capital improvements to libraries in this one time only captial improvement bill. Chicago Public Library got $10 million off the top. So… the Illinois State Library has awarded us $8 and 1/2 million of the rest. I think this is a testament to our project and to the community who has supported their library since 1893. Dee
We have some holiday shopping ideas right here at the library. We have aprons, blankets, t-shirts, copies of Wired. And the very popular chocolate bars from The Confectionary which have a picture of the library. Part of each sale benefits the library so please consider doing some shopping right here.
Every now and then I so love a book that I do want to shout it out. At Home by Bill Bryson fascinates in every word. He gives the history of each area of the home but in such incredible detail that one hardly can take it all in. Highly recommended. Dee
Amazingly, our website is now over 3 years old. We still love the look but… new things come up all of the time and where do we put them? Also, the world is becoming icnreasingly mobile and the website needs to recognize that. Although we won’t change the look, we will be investigating changing some of b ack end.