Around the County

A new library for Powell?

Posted 6/18/19

The Powell Branch Library ... is totally inadequate to provide service to the estimated 11,719 population in the Powell area.” And, “There is no part of the current facility that has …

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Around the County

A new library for Powell?

Posted

The Powell Branch Library ... is totally inadequate to provide service to the estimated 11,719 population in the Powell area.” And, “There is no part of the current facility that has sufficient space.”

So says Jim Minges, a library consultant, whose company has provided planning services to libraries for more than 40 years and who was hired by library supporters to conduct a needs assessment for the community.

“Not like a real library, it has put as much as it can in as small a space as it can and is no longer really usable,” Jim also writes, quoting one of the people who attended a focus group. He said that quote perfectly summarized our situation.

Minges, of Minges & Associates, out of Roeland Park, Kansas, was thorough — studying our community and its demographics, looking at future projections, comparing our library to other similar ones, spending a day examining our current library, then meeting in hour-long sessions over an intensive two-day period with focus groups. These were drawn from every major segment of the community, the participants talking about what they have and want in a library and what they see as its role in the community.

And, what is the Powell library’s purpose? The final report states that “While the Powell Library provides a full range of public library services, it has two particular future priorities that stand out: 1) Providing strong after school programming for middle school students, and 2) Serving as an active community center with excellent spaces for programming, meetings, conferencing and study.”

Everyone agreed that the library has stuffed a maximum of services into a minimum of space and can do no more. Complaints focused on a lack of adult reading space, insufficient technological services, need for a dedicated teen area, and more accessibility for the disabled.

Minges notes in his final report that our current library has a usable space of 9,000 square feet, while a building of approximately 20,900 square feet would be needed to meet community size and 10-year expectations.

“The library has an attractive brick exterior,” he writes, “but underneath that façade the actual library space consists of multiple buildings that have been built and interconnected over many decades, resulting in a building with structural limitations ...”

The report points out that we’ve followed this strategy for decades and that it’s time to recognize that it has ceased being useful. In any event, putting an extra story on the existing building (the one possible way of expanding on the current site) would be cost prohibitive to both build and staff.

What about combining our public library with the college’s? someone asked.

Fortunately, the consultant has had experience working with communities to consolidate school and public libraries. He says that in our case, the collections do not overlap while the functions and the purposes and clientele of the two libraries are completely different. Such merging, he notes, is always difficult but only works when joint libraries are designed from scratch.

He concludes: “It is never practical to simply add the public library function on to an existing academic library.”

So, what about a new Powell library?

Another area of total agreement centered on location — a central location. The report points out that given the vital nature of Bent Street and, based on demographics and the proximity of most community resources to the downtown, the library should not move far.

As to the facility, to meet expectations it should have features that make it uniquely Powell, with a large conference room, at least two smaller meeting rooms, a self-help coffee bar, a teen area, children’s area and craft room, space for some Maker Space functions, a central circulation desk and staff areas, and adequate parking. That’s the basics.

The report concludes: “A vision of the library as a flexible and active learning center for the community would be an exciting one.”

Amen.

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