Logo courtesy of Ames Public Library
By Andrew Duffelmeyer
(Aug. 24, 2011 - 9:45 a.m.) The Ames City Council has directed staff to prepare an $18 million bond referendum for renovation and expansion of the Ames Public Library, and will vote Sept. 13 on whether to officially place that language on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The library's plan would expand the space behind the building and the second floor, increasing the size of the building from 48,000 to 77,000 square feet. All additions and the core of the building built in 1904 will remain intact.
The bond would cost taxpayers about $.61 per $1,000 of valuation. That means $29.70 a year for a $100,000 home and $61.20 a year for a $100,000 business.
The library hopes to raise at least $2 million of private funds for the project. About $1.3 million toward that goal has already been raised, and grants may be available.
Kevin Stow, vice president of the library board of trustees, said cultivating donors takes time and the board currently raises between $50,000 and $80,000 a year.
Stow also said the economic climate and competing projects in the community may make fundraising challenging. But he's optimistic about the capacity for private giving and grants.
"No one will rest until we exceed our $2 million private philanthropic goal," Stow said.
Library Director Art Weeks said the project will increase shelving space, create more open spaces for future flexibility, improve safety and security, provide more space for youth and teens and make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Dudley Luckett, president of the board, said the library as it is needs roughly $10 million in repairs. The last expansion came in 1985, and circulation has nearly tripled since then.
"If it's anything like that, what we're getting here, if it does indeed need $10 million in repairs, then we're getting a library for half price, essentially," Luckett said. "Because we're going to have to spend this money anyhow. We can't do nothing."
Luckett said he's heard objections to the project, including that now is a bad time because the economy is depressed. But he said the bottom line is the library is inadequate, and improving it can create a revitalizing spark for downtown.
"Ames needs in my opinion, it truly needs an upgraded library," Luckett said. "This is not self-aggrandizement on the part of the board. There's no wizard behind the curtain. This plan is the very minimum, it can't be reduced. If it doesn't go, that's it, it's just the end of the line."
Laura Rawlins, a board member that recently moved to Ames, said the library is a "gem" in the city.
"This really is a selling point of our city, and if we're talking about Ames being the heartland's leading edge the library is right there on that edge and needs to continue to be there," Rawlins said.
The library has held 22 public forums with over 800 participants since 2009 and also conducted a phone poll of 400 registered voters.