Hamilton County Proposes Library Expansion
WHAT A YES VOTE IN NOVEMBER COULD DO FOR THE LIBRARY
by Michele Boy
Originally printed in the September 15, 2022 edition of the The Syracuse Journal.
One of Amy Brucker’s favorite library quotes is “Bad libraries build collections. Good libraries build services. Great libraries build communities.”
In November, registered county voters will see a special election question on the ballot for a proposed Library Expansion Project. So what is the Hamilton County Library Bond Issue and what is involved?
To start, the cost of the expansion project is $2.8 million. The ballot question will ask voters to vote yes or no to approve a county-wide .5% general purpose (retailers) sales tax increase to fund the $2.8 million project. The funding for the project will not be tied to property taxes. The increased sales tax will end when the project costs have been paid for.
Brucker has diligently investigated grants to help with costs associated with the project. Until a successful election occurs, the grants cannot be submitted. But many of the grants out there have to do with utility and road infrastructure or new builds, not additions or renovations.
So, what does the bond pay for? Sales tax collected will finance the costs to construct, furnish, and equip additions, improvements and renovations to the Hamilton County Library.
Why Now? Discussion for expanding the library occurred over 10 years ago when Joyce Armstrong was the Library Director. Even then, library services and programs were outgrowing the current space. When I became the Director, a 5-year plan for building improvements were discussed with the Library Board of Trustees. When shared with the County Commissioners a possible expansion was discussed…then COVID hit…then, about 18 months ago the Library Board and I decided it was time to look at new floor coverings. I asked the Commissioners if they objected to the floor coverings but if the expansion was on the horizon it didn’t make sense to put them in now and then add and remodel the current library. The expansion became a priority.
What Additions Are Being Made? The new layout and additional square footage will include a program room with an open kitchen, two private meeting/study rooms, a conference room, on-site storage, and an employee work room. The children’s library area will be relocated, as well as the three offices. Proposed project plans almost double the square footage from 3,900 to 7,700 square footage.
Is the Project Necessary? Simply put, the library needs more room to continue to meet the changing needs of the community we serve. We love that our location and relationship within the community has created this problem; it’s a good one to have. Early childhood programming is growing, kids coming in after school is growing, requests for meeting rooms and private study and work spaces are growing, our relationship with the school continues to grow, and our desire to provide timely and relevant programming has grown. Room is needed to embrace all of this. Several times over the summer I had to turn services like Russel Child Development Center away because we didn’t have open meeting space. Already this fall, a high school class couldn’t access books due to a meeting in the Teen Room. Last spring, we had children meeting with a case manager in an open corner in the adult room, while the VA Rep met with our Veterans in the adult sitting area, and elementary class visits occurring in the children and teen rooms. The energy of everything happening is amazing, but scheduling provides limitations. The additional space will allow for our community to access library services, programs, and resources in a timely and efficient manner.
We are very thankful to both the City of Syracuse and City of Coolidge for their willingness to work with us on the bond issue. Both Councils have agreed to enter into legal agreements to forgo our portion of the increased (.5%) general sales tax, for the county library expansion and remodel, upon a successful election in November. Another huge factor in the successful planning of the proposed project is USD 494’s Board of Education agreeing to give us property north of the library if the election is successful. This agreement really opened the scope of what the project could do.
Some key statistics:
• Our library averages over 4,300 visitors each month.
• Our library recorded 284,960 Wi-Fi sessions last year.
• Our library hosted 644 programs with 13,545 in attendance in 2021.
• Our library is used as a meeting place for Compass Behavioral Health, Russell Child Development Center, Veteran Affairs, Girl Scouts, individuals meeting with estate planners, and more.
• Our library has over 50 class visits each month, with monthly student checkouts ranging from 1,050 to over 1,200 books.
• Our library sponsors two high school leadership groups, Library Leadership Group has 26 members this year, and Seatbelts are For Everyone (SAFE) have 29 members.
• The library was selected the Best Small Public Library in Kansas in 2019 by the Kansas Library Association and awarded a 4-Star Library ranking by the Library Journal in 2021 based on the fiscal year statistics for 2019.
A committee has been formed to promote a “yes vote” for the library bond issue. Presentations within the community are currently being scheduled. If someone would like to request a bond issue presentation, please contact Amy at the library. There are plans to have community wide presentations with the architect and construction manager. All of these events will be announced in the newspaper and on the (soon to be created) bond issue Facebook page
Brucker added, ”This building project is all about community. Over the years the library has done a great job to answer the call to what the community has needed us to be. So good, that we are running out of space. Libraries are adapting to the changing world around us and it’s important that we can continue to meet the needs of our community through the programs, resources and services we offer. This expansion and remodel can provide a lot of opportunities for all of us, now and in planning for the future.”