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Ames Public Library wants $20 million expansion project

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Image courtesy of Ames Public Library.

By Andrew Duffelmeyer

(May 18, 2011 - 11 a.m.) The Ames Public Library plans to ask voters in November for $15 million to renovate and expand the library.

Library director Art Weeks and architect Jeff Scherer on Tuesday evening proposed a $20 million project to the Ames City Council. The effort would include about $5 million in private fundraising by the library board.

That project would renovate and increase the size of the library from about 48,000 square feet to 77,500. Weeks said if all goes as planned - including the approval of a $15 million bond for the project on the November ballot - the project could get underway in summer of 2012.

Scherer said the library, which was last expanded in 1984, is suffering from numerous issues including accessibility, collection space, technology changes, safety and security, meeting space and youth space.

"Our goal is when we are done the entire building will be like a brand new building and have systems if properly maintained that will last for at least 50 years," Scherer said.

The library's circulation has nearly tripled since it's last expansion, while the number of visitors has doubled. The collection has topped out at about 230,000 volumes.

"It was planned for an expansion in 20 years so it's met its point of obsolescence," Scherer said. "It's done its job but it's past that point."

Scherer said by increasing energy efficiency it will cost about the same to light, heat and cool the larger structure as it costs for the current library space. The goal is for the building to be certified as a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) silver or gold building.

Weeks said he also expects staffing costs to be about the same because of more self-service areas for patrons.

The next step is public feedback. There will be three meetings May 18, at 10 a.m. in the library; at 2 p.m. at the Northcrest Community; and again at 7 p.m. in the library.

"We really would want to hear form the public because this is the library for the people of Ames," Weeks said.

The council overall seemed pleased with the proposal, and about a dozen people were on hand to support the plan.

"I think you did a really nice job of listening to some of the concerns of people that worked on the '84 addition and really wanted to see some of that flavor retained," Councilman Peter Orazem said.

Weeks suggested this could be the last expansion of the library building.

"I think that we could live with this for quite a while and your next step could be branch libraries," Weeks said. "But I think that will be after my lifetime as a director, maybe after my lifetime as a person."

Ames Public Library wants $20 million expansion project

We've watched this for a couple of years. The whiners will come out now about how we don't need it. These are the people who have NEVER listened to the stats about how over-worked the library is and how it's going to KILL our property taxes. These people are fools. I hope the word gets out about this project addresses the needs of the library by only a percentage....but something is better than nothing.
Jon Galt

too high cost for additional space gained

20 million/78,000 = $256 per square foot, and that is high even if they were starting with nothing. It's higher than Marshalltown's cost per foot of a completely new library of $221.96

Here's some info from Marshalltown's library site about their new library, opened Dec 2008


key quotes:

"38,970 square feet of space, double the current library"

"How much will the new library cost?
The new library will cost $8.65 million. That figure includes purchasing some additional
property, developing the site, construction costs, architectural costs, furnishings,
equipment, and moving expenses."

(so the cost per square foot below is an 'all inclusive' cost figure)

$8,650,000/38,970 = $221.96 per square foot

There is no reason that the additional space could not be built for Marshaltown library's $221.96 per square foot (see my above comments for footnote of that figure) if it were built as a stand alone building in the SW corner 'notch' section. The current Ames library proposal has about 29,500 additional square feet.

A 2 floor stand alone addition (with basement) in the notch would be:
15,900 x $221.96 = $3,529,164, or 54 percent of the additional space, for 17 percent of the cost of his proposal, for a perfectly architechturally consistent addition

additionally, while slightly less attractive, what about a 3rd floor
20,900 x $221.96 = $4,638,964, or 71 percent of the needed space for 23 percent of the cost

Using the former strand paint notch alone is essentially a new stand alone building. It could be built with no disruption to the library inside, punching out a few sections of existing wall when done, at worst closing the library for a week. This also make the conservative assumption that no part of the existing building can be expanded to 2 floors without substantial 're-working' of the existing building - this may or may not be true (it's possible that some parts were build for expansion, and others weren't)

And it's not just $15 million, it's $15 million *plus interest*

in the yield curve chart below, that's about 4 percent on a 15 or 20 year bond

$15,000,000 x .04 = $600,000 per year interest. in the life of a bond, I believe the average interest is 1/2 the maximum, $300,000 *per year* in this case for either 15 or 20 years

15 years = $4,500,000 total interest payments

20 years = $6,000,000 total interest payments

bottom line is, it should be possible to get 71 percent of the additional space of the current proposal for $4,683,864, which is less that the interest payments alone on the difference (about $15 million) between what he's proposing and I'm suggesting

I would urge anyone on any side of this issue to drive over to Marshalltown to see what they got for what they paid. It's a very nice library.

My only issue is that Ames citizens deserve the same value that Marshalltown's citizens received

(comments I made in the Ames Trib article assumed 28,000 square feet gained, vs the 29,500 stated in this article, so I've adjusted my figures slightly to take that into account)

Hey guy who posts the same

Hey guy who posts the same junk about Marshalltown's library every time this issue comes up: Is the library there LEED certified? Have you considered that spending more up front for better energy efficiency saves money in the long term?


Yeah, Marhsalltown's library IS LEED Gold certified

The Marshalltown Public Library building is LEED® certified to the Gold level, making it the first LEED certified library in Iowa.


thanks for asking

got any other questions? LOL


Good for them. I have no clue who you are or what you do, but if you are so motivated by this project, shouldn't you actually try making the powers that be aware of this instead of posting it on anonymous forums where people like me don't care? Just askin'...

To: Guy who posts about Marshalltown's library

My only question to you is: "What did the Library Trustees say when you brought these details up in a public forum?"
Jon Galt

Let's get this done

I would have voted for and contributed to the original $35 million plan. The library is one of our greatest resources. If half the original plan is all we can get because of the anti-tax crowd, then that's better than nothing. Go for it.

The Ames library is a free

The Ames library is a free daycare for bad parents. I'll be voting NO


No expansion is need and it will be even less necessary as time goes by -- eBooks are growing by leaps and bounds and the library will likely to continue to bend to this new demand...don't need much floor space for ebooks. Also, the library is never crowded in their current building/configuration, even with all the community events going on in there. And yes, I'm by there every day and in there frequently.


We don't NEED art, cable tv, cars, bus transportation, swimming pools, gyms, books, e-readers, laptops, or many other things we have come to value and rely on. But we DO NEED to consider what type of society we want and what our community should represent.

I am proud that Ames is a community full of well-rounded, well-educated, thoughtful and generous people who are - for the most part - interested in the common good. Not everyone uses the library, and there are lots of reasons why they don't, but if we don't provide access to information, ideas, and computers -- and even a place for the innocent kids who have "bad parents" to be exposed to interesting activities and kind librarians -- how do we expect democracy to work?

A beautiful, energy-efficient, up-to-date library would be a good representation of Ames as the forward-looking, enlightened community that it is.

what bothers me about your position

is that you totally ignore the specific cost concerns of the current proposal, you speak in vague generalities, and make untrue assumptions about those who are for vs against this proposal

NOBODY is for getting rid of libraries!

And few for that matter, are against an expansion - we just feel that the current proposal may be extravegant and wastefull

Perhaps you think that "well-rounded, well-educated, thoughtful and generous people who are - for the most part - interested in the common good" shouldnt ask questions about where their money goes

dear bothered

I don't believe I made any untrue assumptions...sorry if you took offense. I only said that I support the idea of investing in things for the common good.
As for cost concerns, I think the architect has made the point that there is a lot of stuff that needs to be updated in the facility that exists (repairing heating and cooling, fixing walls that were designed to last 20 years and are now 27 years old, bringing restrooms and other things up to the ADA standards that went into effect on March 15)and those things will cost a few million anyway. So it's my opinion that this is a great opportunity to make needed repairs, solve accessibility problems, add more space, and do some historical preservation all at once. For something like $30 to $50 per year for the average homeowner.

Name ONE library in the USA built around 1984, that needed to be


libraries in the USA must be facing the same issue and are being gutted as well

can anyone name one library in the USA, built around 1984, that has been gutted?

Brick and mortar Libraries are obsolete

This is the digital age there is little reason to have a library building at all. Granted those parents who use the library as a "daycare" would object. I have more books now than ever in my life on one little $100 device and never leave the house to buy or rent them.

I agree with "dear bothered"

Are the people who feel that the current proposal is "too extravagant" also the ones who helped shoot down the first library proposal? What exactly will make them happy, a new doormat in the front entrance of the library?

These dollar comparisons between Marshalltown and Ames aren't reasonable (apples to oranges). The M'town costs were in 2008 dollars and the Ames costs will be in 2014 dollars, according to the library. That's just one difference. Ever try to buy a house in a smaller town? You can get a wonderful house in Ames for $200,000 but you can get a fantastic house in Marshalltown for that amount of money. City-owned land is not going to cost the same between these two municipalities.

As "dear bothered" points out, we can get a helluva "newish" building for what works out to be $30-50 per year for most of us. Why would anyone be against that? I just don't get it. Some of the people in this town whom you would expect to be most progressive about libraries feel like it is their purview to beat down anything new, exciting, and necessary in favor of just "needed or the whole thing will collapse." What a "victory" for them if this latest proposal by the library fails.

Cost questions

"The M'town costs were in 2008 dollars and the Ames costs will be in 2014 dollars, according to the library."

can someone post a verifyable inflation factor between 2008 and 2014? Remember, the Marshalltown library was built at the top of a historic construction bubble

"That's just one difference. Ever try to buy a house in a smaller town? You can get a wonderful house in Ames for $200,000 but you can get a fantastic house in Marshalltown for that amount of money. City-owned land is not going to cost the same between these two municipalities."

I dont get it - land is NOT a factor here! the city already owns the land! I dont believe land is part of the budget in this proposal. 'Location' is not a factor, if you already own the land. Materials/labor costs differences in 2 counties next to each other will be nill

"As "dear bothered" points out, we can get a helluva "newish" building for what works out to be $30-50 per year for most of us. Why would anyone be against that?"

because that is not the only thing that's going up. Every city vehicle now burns $4/gallon gas. The question is, can it be afforded on top of everything else that a household is now paying more for, gas and groceries? How much will the water and electric bonds increase taxes?

but most importantly, why is it that we need to completely gut a building built in 1984?

Name one building built in 1974-1984 in Ames, that has needed to do that (where the overall purpose and user of the building has not changed, changing from one business to another does not count)

People are not against libraries, or even an expansion - it's the COST of this proposal.

It's a gain of 29,000 square feet. At Marshalltown's rate of $222, that's

29,500 x $222 = $6,549,000

$20,000,000 - $6,549,000 = $13,451,000

at 4 percent interest, that's $538,040 interest per year

again, why do you need to gut the existing portion? why is it that OTHER buildings of that age dont need to be gutted (all over Ames and ISU campus?)

why cant anyone answer that?!?!

why cant we just put a 2 story section in the sw corner 'notch' for 10,000 square feet, and leave the existing building alone?

10,000 x $222 = $2,220,000

if you want 50 percent for inflation of costs that's still only

10,000 x $333 = $3,330,000


"It's a gain of 29,000 square feet. At Marshalltown's rate of $222, that's"

should have been

"It's a gain of 29,500 square feet. At Marshalltown's rate of $222, that's"

Re: cost questions

"can someone post a verifyable inflation factor between 2008 and 2014?"

Obviously nobody knows what it will be in the future, but 3.5% per year is a reasonable estimate over the long term.

The Turner Building Cost Index was -8.4% in 2009 and -4.0% in 2010, I would guess 2011 will end up near 0%.

So, going a little ways out on a limb here, I would guess that 2014 and 2008 construction costs will be very comparable.

John Hascall
PS, you are correct about 2008 being the peak (the index was +9.5%, +10.6%, 7.7%, 6.3% in 2005-2008)


very helpfull

you can throw any numbers at me you want

... and I will still support the library's latest plan. I don't give a sh*t about the Marshalltown library, frankly. I only care about APL, which has a host of needs and problems.

You seem to just want an extension, leaving the rest of the worn-out, poorly configured building in place. Did you not get that the mechanicals in the library need to be replaced, etc., to the degree that it will be easier to gut it (oops, I know you hate that word).

GUTTED. GUTTED. GUTTED. Kind of enjoy it, myself.

Now where was I.

Given your tightfistedness, you were undoubtedly against a brand new library, so this is what you get: replacing the old library from within. Tacking an addition on the corner will not solve their problems.

Again--$30-50 a household to do this--that's nothing! I simply don't buy the poor-mouthing about gas money, etc. These are taxes on property owned, as you know, so it's proportional. Fact is: Most people spend that amount on crap in one weekend--pizza, beer, concession stand crap at some sports event. If you're not poor, you're probably writing this on your nice computer, which means you can afford that amount. And if you're writing these unhinged statistical rants on the libraries' computers than a good conscience would dictate you turn in your library card!

'unhinged statistical rants' are more effort than your profanity

but I guess that's all you've got

what other building in Ames built 1974-1984 has had to be gutted to continue operating?

what other library built in that timeframe has had to be gutted anywhere in the USA to continue operating?

funny how nobody can answer that?

if this were normal you'd think there would be all kinds of examples - yet nobody can name one

all you can come up with is profanity

to ranter

One word offends you, for which I don't apologize--grow up already, they say this word in grade school.

And it's not all I've got.

As I have now said twice, this is a cheap remodel for Ames citizens, household per household: $30-50 a year. That's a very strong argument. All YOU've got is some tirade about how this has never been done before in the history of the world, so why us, why us.

Over and over you avoid the fact that the library needs major renovation and reconstruction--walls, mechanicals, etc. Elsewhere an appraiser has told you that this is very common in buildings this age, but you just blithely ignore him/her.

It seems personal with you.

'it's only $30-50 per household per year'

if that's all you've got, then you missed your calling as a defense lawyer, you could justfy embezzelment with that arguement (not that I'm suggesting that's going on here)

Costs are justified based on what's needed and what's necessary, not what it will cost per household

as far as an anonymous poster who calls himself 'appraiser' and says nothing more than 'that's common' with NO reference or footnote whatsoever backing up what he said, was that supposed to be a joke on your part?

getting around

Hey, have any of you ever tried to get around the Ames library in a wheelchair? I have to tell you it is no easy feat. I am not complaining, because everyone there is really helpful. But the aisles are small, books are high, books are low, bathrooms are crowded, doorways are tight. The elevator has to have doors on both sides because some wierd loading dock in the garage is not on the same level as any floor inside the building. The place is sometimes hot and sometimes cold. There is maybe 1 inch of insulation in SOME walls and none in the roof. Come on, people. Ames can do better. I think gutting it is a GOOD idea - let's get high energy-efficiency, natural daylight, and spaces everyone can use.

An addition in the notch could solve most ADA issues

you could put a cardkey ADA entrance on it, ADA restrooms etc, make the addition fully ADA compiant.

And with the additional space, you could pull the stacks in the existing portion wider, have books lower etc

Also, electronic technology may be making the whole issue of your having to go through the aisles looking for books moot anyway, with most titles available electronicly in subscription service downloadable to a kindle reader device, either at home or in the library. The electronic card catalogue could return a note of any item available electronically, and have those that arent available at optimum ADA level

with an addition in the sw notch, most of the library's 1984

section and the new addition would be open floorspace anyway, without gutting the 1984 section - it would no longer be 'L' shaped

I doubt that making the

I doubt that making the "notch" ADA compliant would fly. What does it say to disabled members of our community (and what does it say about us) that they don't deserve access to the full library? Or that they shouldn't have the pleasure of searching the stacks on their own if that's what they choose? The new library plan offers that option to all library patrons, not just those of us who are lucky enough to be able to get around without assistance.

Also, one commenter (perhaps it's you?) keeps referring to the Mtown library as the standard we should be aiming for here in Ames. It might be an interesting exercise to compare the 2010 annual reports for each library. For example, with a 2010 population of 27,552, Mtown had a circulation of 327,106 items. Ames, with slightly more than twice the Mtown population (58,965), had a circulation of 1,431,023 items—over a million more items. Statistics for meeting use, library programs and attendance, and so on are equally out of balance when compared relative to population sizes. APL is a heavily, heavily used facility. Even assuming that the 1984 addition was a gold standard of the time, the kind of use the current building and collection receive deserves at least some consideration in our decision whether or not to support the expansion.


What are public funds for if not for something like this? I mean, this is the definition of the greater good. And also one of the primary images that a city portrays to outsiders. If the city library isn't worth our investment, what is?

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