2013-09-05 / News

Library gets ready to unveil design plan for renovations

Building has not undergone significant work in 20 years
By Margo Sullivan

The Jamestown Philomenian Library has begun a long awaited effort to redesign the building’s interior, according to Craig Watson, chairman of the library’s building committee.

The project is being described as an internal reorganization. The renovations will focus on the children’s library, the Native American exhibit (with emphasis on the display cases and informational display), and the meeting rooms.

Also part of the project will be the technology infrastructure.

Technology improvements probably will not call for purchasing additional public computers, he said. Rather, the plan is to increase bandwidth and acquire more peripherals.

According to an Aug. 13 memo from Watson to the Town Council, NewPort Architecture has been selected to draw up the redesign plans for the library.

“The library has not undergone any significant renovation since construction more than 20 years ago,” Watson wrote. “In addition, the role libraries play in their communities continue to change rapidly as technology and other resources affect the public culture.”

In a follow-up interview, Watson said much more information will come out as soon as the architects develop the plan. They are expected to come up with designs, and then the public will be invited to attend workshops as the plans begin to unfold.

“This is the first step into really making changes,” he said. “It’s exciting.”

However, the building committee has been at work for about a year laying the groundwork, he indicated. A committee, formed from library trustees, professional staff and members of the Friends of the Library, studied the current use, resources and physical design, he said. A report was produced that included some recommendations.

“We’re not getting rid of books or resources,” Watson said. Rather, the library wants to be able to meet the changing needs of its patrons.

For one example, requests for private or semiprivate meeting and teaching rooms – for two to six people attending – have been on the increase, he said. The library would like to meet the demand and create inviting and comfortable spaces for people to discuss their various projects or do their work.

Another need relates to the collection for teenage readers. When the children’s library was designed 20 years ago, the inventory for young adults was not significant.

“Now it is,” he said.

According to Watson, there are more serious and better works being written for teenagers, such as “The Hunger Games.” He says the young-adult section needs enhancement, rather than being pushed into a corner of the children’s area.

The next stage of work, he indicated, would be directing architects to present budgets, which would become the basis of the library’s fundraising campaign.

The plan would have more than one option, he indicated, and the budget would be a “first-draft.”

At the Aug. 19 meeting of the Town Council, the councilors accepted the letter with the correspondence and briefly discussed the project. It was included with their goals under the category of supporting improvements to town facilities.

Councilor Mary Meagher said it was her understanding the library did not need the council’s approval because the library has its own endowment. She checked with recently retired Town Administrator Bruce Keiser.

“What’s the process?” she asked. “Do we have to approve the use of that money?”

No, Keiser indicated. The funds are “fully under their control,” he said.

However, Tina Collins, Jamestown’s finance director and now interim town administrator, said the library uses the town’s tax number.

So the library has to be compliant, she said, with the town’s financial and accounting practices.

“The council does not need an appropriation?” Meagher asked, verifying the situation with Keiser, who confirmed no public funds are being spent.

Watson said in a telephone interview Meagher was correct. However, the library is part of the town.

“We were asking for their endorsement,” he said, adding the building committee follows all the town’s official purchasing procedures and would keep town officials informed about the project.

Watson said the decision to hire the Newport firm was based primarily on factors such as past public works projects and “fit” for Jamestown.

NewPort Architecture was involved with the Redwood Library and Newport Public Library projects, he explained. They have a strong track record doing local projects, he added.

Watson said the library received eight answers to its request for proposals, and all the architects had been highly qualified. The committee initially narrowed the candidates to four and conducted interviews. Ultimately, two bid on the project.

He did not provide information about the bid and did not have a dollar estimate for the design costs. Because the contract with the architects has not been signed, no dollar figure is available yet.

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