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home : news : news Friday, December 15, 2017

2/6/2016 Email this articlePrint this article 
Library expansion work starts
Consultant shows early info on needs assessment report
By Tom Pantera


DeWitt's Library Board has taken the first steps on the long road to expanding the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library.

City and library officials got their first report Monday from consultant Anders C. Dahlgren, who was hired last month to begin a needs assessment for the library.

Dahlgren's first reports were comparative studies of how the library stacks up to national trends in such facilities, as well as how it compares to libraries in similar cities.

That information will form part of the basis for a study of the local library's needs.

Library Board President Kari Bossom said the initial information contained no surprises.

"It was everything we were going to talk about," she said. "We are a progressive town and our library needs to keep up with that. Technology is booming everywhere and people are really interested in that technology and access to it."

The board hired Dahlgren last month to do the needs assessment, but library expansion is not a new topic here.

"Before I joined the board - I don't even know how many years I've been on it - there was talk of expanding," Bossom said. "They started this process. That is when our school (building) talks started, so we kind of pushed the library to the back burner. We felt like now is maybe the time to get going on it again."

That could mean actual physical expansion of the library building, but the process is at such an early stage that it's impossible to say if that will happen.

"We're hoping (for expansion), but not necessarily," Bossom said. There also are options for using existing space, like rearranging the library to maximize its use. "Some spaces aren't being used as well as they could be," she said, like the tight meeting areas and a teen literature section where "books are smashed up into their area."

Pat Henricksen, vice president of the board, said the study is aimed at ultimately having a library that will meet DeWitt's needs for at least the next two or three decades.

Henricksen said, "Libraries are changing. The kids come to work in groups at the library. We have e-books, but then we have other needs that aren't met. There are research needs. There's people that don't have computers that are constantly at the library."

She said Dahlgren's initial report talked about mixed-use spaces in libraries and "that surprised me a little bit. More community space. People are using the library as almost a community center. We're probably going to look and see what our needs here are in this community."

Monday's meeting also noted that the DeWitt library needs to increase its available bandwidth and "I think we can work with Grand Mound to do that," she said.

But there were less technology-oriented suggestions as well, like having a dropbox for book returns.

"He had a lot of new ideas," she said. "He wants us to go to the libraries that he's worked on and check it out."

Library officials will do that while Dahlgren completes the next phase of his study, which probably will be done by summer.

After that, both women said, the library will organize public meetings to gauge what the community would like to see as part of any expansion.

No dollar amount or timetable has been set for the expansion, Henricksen said.

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