Ames Voters to Decide on $18 Million Bond Project for Library Renovation and Addition
A final question and answer session on the project takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1. Total estimated cost of the library expansion is $20 million.
Ames Public Library Director Art Weeks was just about to tell a small gathering in its auditorium about a $20 million plan to renovate, restore and add on to the facility.
He started to apologize for the meeting's odd Tuesday morning timing, saying that it was one of the only times the library's Farwell T. Brown auditorium was going unused.
Then a staff member rolled a book cart through the tiled foyer. The clatter drowned out his words.
That's exactly why we are not going to put that type of flooring in the new library, Weeks said, closing the doors.
“The books sound like a subway train going by the building,” he said.
When voters participate in the Nov. 8 city election, they will be asked if the city can bond $18 million for the $20 million renovation and expansion project. The work would double the library's size, restore some of the original 1904 Carnegie structure and 1940 addition. The improvements would make the library handicapped accessible and give different sets of library users more private spaces.
Residential property assessed at $100,000 valuation would be taxed $30 more a year in the worst case scenario, Weeks said. They have 75 percent of the $2 million in private money on hand already and will continue raising money until April.
Weeks said library staff have discussed expansion since 1997. The library's last addition and renovation came in 1985 before ADA requirements existed and the Internet was even thought of.
Weeks said people feared the Internet would kill libraries, but it's actually boosted use because people come in to surf the web on library computers.
Last year, 1.4 million items were checked out, Weeks said, making Ames Public Library circulation third behind Iowa City and Des Moines.
Library gathering areas have vanished over time as its collection grew. Closely stacked shelves have eaten furniture space.
The Ames Tribune wrote an editorial in 1937 that said teens needed a space of their own and they got one in 1940 when Ames built an addition to the original 1904 Carnegie Library, Weeks said.
Today teens meet in an upstairs loft-style hallway where they have one diner-style table, four computers and a small pile of bean bag chairs.
The children's area that about 160 kids use each day is steps away from the adult area. This would be doubled in size in the new library and adults would be moved upstairs.
Patrons Say Expansion Needed
“We've needed it forever, it's a filthy hole in there,” said Tom Wolske of Ames about the proposed expansion as he left the library.
He said he likes kids, but can't stand the noise. The children's area is near the checkout/information area and phones are always ringing.
Library patron Peggy Fadden of Ames said she put a sign in support of the referendum in her yard.
“I am for it. We need an updated plan that makes sense,” she said.
A previous plan to build a new library on the city parking lot was rejected in the early planning stages. Fadden didn't like that idea either.
Plans to build at alternate locations or tear down and build new were rejected, Weeks said, because people have a sentimental attachment to the historic parts of the building.
Instead plans call for extending the building to the street, taking up a neighboring vacant lot and building a second story on the portions of the building that can support it. The design will also bring back some historic features like a terrazzo floor and the 1904 woodwork in the upper level.
Updates will include LED lights that will cut back on electric usage and insulation so Weeks said officials don't expect operation costs to increase with the size.
If voters say yes, the library will go through a planning and design phase and the facility will likely move to an alternate location during construction. The cost of the move is built into the $20 million project cost.
If approved, Weeks thinks they might cut a ribbon on the new library in 2015.
“I definitely think we should do it, it's a well-educated community and it's a great resource,” said Sue Winer of Ames.
A third and final question and answer session on the library takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday.