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.