Monday, November 20
To build or to remodel? That is the question a Library Taskforce has been considering for the past couple months in the city of Rushford.
The existing public library in the Tew Building, located near Rushford’s central business district on Highway 43, was built in 1922. The library shares the building, as well as equipment and a part-time employee with the city hall. The library’s portion of space, on the main level of the building, covers approximately 1,600 square feet.
In August, Ron McGriff, a consulting librarian from Braham, MN., submitted a "space needs assessment" report which indicated a need for an expansion of the library to 5,000 square feet. This increase, McGriff wrote, would allow for the "decompression of current collections and seating spaces and some modest space for future growth of these elements."
While McGriff said that the current library is well located, attractive and well maintained, he noted that there is very little designated off-street parking. He also stated that the library service and staff areas are currently at full capacity and that there is no additional space available in the Tew building for expansion.
In September a Library Taskforce was formed to study McGriff’s report and to make recommendations to the library board and the city council as to what steps should be taken. One idea put forth would have the library taking over the space now occupied by the city hall.
But that would be a short-term fix according to Librarian Susan Hart. "That would give us 3,400 square feet," Hart told the Journal, "which would solve our current overcrowding problem for only about 18 months."
Hart said that the library has experienced a 44% increase in usage since 1995. She said that along with the increase in patrons, the library’s collection of books and other materials is also growing. In the coming week, Hart said that she will be taking delivery of three additional Internet computer terminals.
"I don’t have any place to put them, so I’ll just have to make our already crowded facilities a little more crowded," she said.
Remodeling the Tew building would likely not be a cheap or easy proposition. Due to the weight of bookshelves, the building may prove to be structurally unfit for an expansion. So the Rushford City Council is looking at hiring a structural engineer to determine the integrity of the 78 year-old building.
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