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Library director describes needs during tour - with VIDEO

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Logo courtesy of Ames Public Library

By Andrew Duffelmeyer

(Sept. 26, 2011 - 10:30 a.m.) Ames Public Library Director Art Weeks on Sept. 22 took AmesNewsOnline on a tour of the building he oversees, which could undergo major changes if an $18 million bond proposal is approved by voters on Nov. 8.

The proposal would expand the library from its current size of 48,000 square foot to 77,000 square feet and include a complete renovation, while maintaining all previous additions and the original 1904 building.

The Ames Public Library, which was last expanded in 1985, is one of the most active libraries in the country. It's in the top 10 for libraries in communities the size of Ames (60,000 or fewer) in terms of circulation, program attendance and children's books borrowed.

The library's circulation has nearly tripled since the 1985 addition, from about 505,000 to about 1.4 million. That means about 450,000 visitors a year and 4,000 returns the library handles daily.

The bond is expected to cost taxpayers $29.70 per $100,000 of residential property valuation and $61.20 per $100,000 of commercial property valuation. The library has committed to raising $2 million on it's own for the project.

Weeks said during the tour the areas for children, teens and staff at the library are too small, as are meeting, computer and study areas. The library has run out of shelving space as well, and certain areas are not properly supervised.

The building also has numerous areas that aren't compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Weeks said: spaces between shelves aren't wide enough, study rooms aren't easily accessible and the elevator isn't big enough, among other things.

A committee has been formed to sell the plan to Ames residents.

View Part 1 of the library tour video.
View Part 2 of the library tour video.
View Part 3 of the library tour video.

Bad link

The link to Part 1 of the tour actually links to Part 3.

re: Kindle

thanks to the recent addition of Kindle e-books I will never go to the library again....except to vote NO on the bond


Thanks for the video series. As a parent of two young kids, I can say we are at the library at least once a week. I can attest to the overcrowded story times and activites at the auditorium. I think there is definite need for library renovation. Does AmesNewsOnline plan on providing coverage of exactly what the remodel will improve, expand and update?

Concerned parent


I love the library. Even with a Kindle reader, I still need to go to the library to read magazines, check out books (not every thing is available electronically) and scope out the DVDs.


The Ames Public Library is an excellent library. I strongly support the renovation and increased space that is needed. It is a wonderful addition to our city. I am planning to donate my share of the money needed and I will vote YES on the bond.

The Citizen

I have decided how I will vote on this issue... but who cares about what I think?
What we all want to know is what the Ames Economic Development Commission and
Ames Chamber of Commerce think.

To "The Citizen"

It's people like you who add cynicism to the process why our community always "lives in the past" and can never let issues stay in the past. Shame on you. I hope you are proud of your comment. Very sad.

On a similar note...who really cares what these two entities think? Aren't we all intelligent individuals who can make a rational decision? I sure think so.

"Living in the past" or unethical behavor?

I think the writer of the comment you replied to was alluding to the fact that the present head of the Chamber felt it was permissible to use the "clout" of the Ames Economic Development Commission and Ames Chamber of Commerce to publicly weigh in on a subject that neither organization had any business supporting or opposing.

When someone perpetrates a scam on you and finally get caught, do you say "It's in the past, let it stay in the past"? Or do you want some kind of reparation even though the scam isn't necessarily current?

When you find out your child shoplifted a CD, do you just say, "Oh well, it's in the past, let it stay in the past"? Or do you insist that your child own up to stealing and either return or pay for the CD, regardless of when it was stolen?

I know of several people that are boycotting all Chamber sponsored events, and Chamber member stores, until the current head at least apologizes for his misuse of his office. There is something called accountability here, and most folks feel that ignoring bad behavior sends entirely the wrong message.

Sadly, I must vote NO

I love the library but I have to make priorities for myself. For me, future hospital and school bonds are more important.

To Sadly

You will not have to vote, nor will you have to pay through your taxes, the hospital bonds. Those are revenue bonds approved by the City Council to be paid solely by the revenue generated by the hospital through their fees for service.

to Sadly, re: priorities

I also plan to support an upcoming school bond. But given the library bond's relatively low cost, I can't see any good reason not to vote YES for it as well. At a tax evaluation of as little as $30-45 a year (if you have a house under $150,000), it would come out to less than $4 a month--the cost of a couple cups of coffee or a treat from the DQ. And if your house is worth more than $150,000 then for sure you can afford this tiny share of taxes to support something you love.

Our family's annual share comes out to the cost of about two hardcover books. I don't know about yours, but my family borrows hundreds of hardcover (and other) books over the course of the year. Ditto videos, CDs, and audiobook tapes. We owe them a YES vote, big-time!

If you use the library, now is a good time to show your love by voting YES.

The Ames library has a long list of overdue and critical repairs that have been put off, renovations that would make it safer, and expansion to accommodate its books, technology, and staff needs. Don't take my word for it, look at the FAQ on the Ames Public Library's website. These are needs, not wants.

I dont care for the 'it's only the cost of a couple of cups'


what I notice is how much those who are trying to push for yes try to make the cost as abstract from what we pay for what we are getting as possible

we're not paying a couple of cups of coffee per month, we're paying an 18 million dollar bond

the question is not why i need x amount of coffee, it'w why the needs come to 18 million dollars - there's some specific discussion of this in the previous library news story comments

au contraire

Not trying to make the cost more abstract--quite the opposite! I was trying to put it in concrete terms so it's easier for people to grasp. What is abstract for most people is the $18 million dollars for the bond! What needs to be understood is that this large sum is split up among all of us, households and commercial entities, over the course of several years. Each individual household's share turns out to be quite modest--the cost of a couple cups of coffee a month. Or to use a better comparison for this purpose, a couple hardback books a YEAR.

If you don't borrow from the library or attend any of its programming, you may think you already pay enough in taxes supporting it. If you're a patron of the library, you might want to vote YES to show your support and quit niggling.

asking why something costs 18 million dollars is not 'niggling'

nig·gling adj \ˈni-g(ə-)liŋ\

Definition of NIGGLING
: petty; also : bothersome or persistent especially in a petty or tiresome way

unless you think 18 million dollars is a 'petty' amount of money

it's not about whether one is for or against the library, and it's not about whether one can afford the equivelent of a couple of cups of coffee per month, it's about why 18 million dollars needs to be spent, and so far I've seen little beyond that it's about 1/2 of the original outragious proposal of 35 million - the costs relative to Marshalltown's library, and other libraries in the region seem out of line

Cost of Ames Project Compared to Marshalltown

Several bloggers have commented that the cost of the Ames Public Library's expansion project is out of line, especially when compared to the Marshalltown Public Library project, which was completed in 2008. According to the architectural issue of Library Journal (December 2009), the total project cost for Marshalltown was $9,054,600. At 35,710, the per square foot cost of the project was $253.44 in terms of 2008 dollars.

The total project cost for the Ames project has been estimated at $19,988,707 for 77,877 square feet of new construction and renovation of older portions of the building. There is a contingency factor of $768,796 built in to protect us against the unknown. The total project cost is therefore $256.67 per square foot for a project estimated to be completed in 2014. Since these figures have factored inflation, we compare very favorably to the Marshalltown if anyone cares to benchmark us with that project.

We will be taking on expenses that Marshalltown did not experience, such as the need to move out and rent a satellite facility during the 18-24 month construction phase. Comparing one project to another is a questionable exercise since there are many variables involved. Suffice it to say, we brought the costs down as low as we could get them after about one year of planning and re-adjustment.

Simply adding an addition is really not an option that has a favorable return on investment. Once the process of renovation begins, all aspects of the building which do not meet ADA standards (of which there are many) must, by law, be corrected. All other deficiencies of the building's infrastructure will also have to be corrected at considerable expense.

Working in our favor at this time are interest rates, which are at the lowest point in living memory. Another bonus for us at this time is a climate of favorable bidding by contractors.

This information is presented by Art Weeks, Library Director.

How about???

"I can't see any good reason not to vote YES for it as well."

How about

1) The big bond issue we've already passed, but not really even started to pay for, for the new aquatic center.

2) The fact that all of our schools, particularly our elementary schools, are in extremely poor condition, needing asbestos abatement, ADA improvements, drainage problems solved, etc. To bring them up to even reasonable conditions will require a very hefty bond issue.

3) The fact that we need a new water treatment facility. Which has already caused a major rise in our water rates, and those rates are already set to go up by the same amount soon.

4) The fact that my property taxes have already gone up about 10% just since last year.

Perhaps you are fortunate enough that all of these things chipping away at your income don't have much of an effect on you or your lifestyle. Sadly, not everyone is that fortunate. Particularly those on fixed incomes.

I'm an avid user of the Ames Public Library, and I wish it was in my power to just write out a check to them for whatever they need at any given time. But the truth is that governments, just like families, must prioritize. If there isn't enough money for both groceries and a bigger car, which needs to come first? If you want a new car, and your spouse wants a new boat, and there is only money for one of the other, you don't both get your way, do you? Perhaps folks in Ames should have thought about the other big expenses (schools, water plant) coming down the road at us, and decided which they wanted first (a library or a new pool) before voting yes for that last huge bond issue.

Should I be forced out of my own home simply because the library doesn't feel it should wait its turn?

Bottom line: taxpayers don't have bottomless pockets. In this economy, more people are "scraping the bottom of the barrel" than have in many decades. While I would absolutely hate having to live without a public library within a reasonable distance, the truth is that a library is a want, not a need. Schools are a need. Clean drinking water is a need. A library would be pretty high on my want-list, but it still isn't an absolute "need."

you forgot electric plant

i think that one's up for a bond issue too

Out of Touch With the Reality Most of Us Live

I am one of those rich folk with a $200,000 house who can apparently afford anything and everything. Bought many years ago and have increased value and would like to stay. We live on a modest pension and greatly diminished income from savings. We rarely buy a cup of coffee or go out for ice cream but would like to keep doing so. We're helping pay for a county hospital we don't need, a big new court house, a new pool (voted for that one for the grandkids) and will need to pay for some needed new schools. I watch the council meetings and see our water and sewer bill will be going way up for a new water plant and some new sewer treatment and the light bill has been going up too. We would like to do more for the community but have had to make choices on what we do and where we spend our money and the government needs to do the same, we just can't pay for it all. I can still check out books at the current library, that will not go away, I guess I love the library but don't feel like I owe them anything more - I love my kids too but can't give them what I don't have. We all need to set some priorities and the wife and I have decided to vote no for now on this one. There are no real needs here, but some real nice to haves just can't affort it.

I understand

Everyone has different spending priorities, that is understood. These are tight times for many if not most of us. It is too bad that so many of these things are coming to the fore at the same time because it seems that most of them are valuable and even necessary.

If our country had different taxing and spending priorities, citizen groups would not be in the position of campaigning for each and every improvement to the community with people who are already stressed and tapped out. We live in a rich country. That doesn't mean the wealth is spent in a way that makes sense, unfortunately.

Ames is fortunate to have a great library, with a hard-working, generous-with-their-time-and-talents staff, and a wonderful collection for a town our size. I hope people can see in their hearts to make a small sacrifice to renew it, now. It is not just a matter of expansion and aesthetic improvement. Many of the needed changes have to do with safety (the layout needs to be improved for better supervision of children) and accessibility for the disabled, not to mention new HVAC, etc., systems that would improve energy consumption.

I need a new car, too

I'm driving a 1997 model and -- as with any car that age -- some things are starting to go wrong with it that are a bit expensive to fix.

One of the drawer fronts in my kitchen came off in my hand the other day and I had to re-glue it back into place, and then find a larger screw to put in it. I also used a few large staples from my staple gun to hopefully make the repair last longer. Truth to tell, the seller of this house put in some very cheap cupboards prior to putting it on the market (in order to make it more cosmetically appealing, and those cupboards have already lasted longer than they realistically should have been expected to.)

While we're on the subject of kitchens, the whole layout of my kitchen is awkward because the appliances that came with the house when I bought it are actually too big for the size of the kitchen. I have one cabinet that won't open all of the way because the refrigerator is in the way. I replaced the stove with a smaller size when the original needed some repairs. But I can't see replacing a working refrigerator so that situation will stay the way it is until the fridge no longer cools. Then I'll buy a smaller one.

Of course, what I'd love to do if I won the lottery (which I understand I can't because I don't buy tickets) would be to just have the whole kitchen torn out and rebuilt with better cupboards, and a better plan that would allow the appliances to fit.

And then, of course, there's that basement wall that's slowly crumbling. (My basement floor looks like the Mississippi River delta after every big rain.) It really needs to just have the whole house jacked up on that side, the foundation wall torn out, and rebuilt. With a sump pump and proper drainage installed at the same time.

And then, there's the lack of space in here. If I had a dry basement, I could add another room downstairs. However, see preceding paragraph. I could go the other way and have my attic stairs rebuild some how, so they aren't so steep as to not really be a usable set of stairs. Of course, that would mean they'd have to be longer, which would mean they'd extend into the hallway further, which would obstruct the door to my second bedroom. But once I got that problem worked out, I could have heating and cooling ducts run up there, have some new wiring installed so I could have some outlets up there, and expand upwards.

Maybe, if I added another 10-feet onto the back of my house, the door to the second bedroom could be relocated so the attic stairs could be fixed. That would be nice anyway, since my bathroom is so small you almost have to sit diagonally on the toilet. Not to mention the only place you can put a bathroom scale is behind the bathroom door, which means the bathroom door doesn't open all of the way. And a larger bathroom would allow a larger vanity cabinet for the sink which would mean I could leave more than just my toothbrush and a bar of soap sitting on the edge of the sink.

And a 10-foot addition to the back of the house would provide enough room that I could have a "real" closet in my bedroom with enough space to hang all of my clothes. I wouldn't have to keep switching summer/winter clothes upstairs to the attic twice every year.

And, then, of course, a 10-foot addition would mean that my house would extend just about to the garage, so instead of having a detached garage, I could build a covered door between them. Although, while I'm at it, my garage is very narrow, to the point where fitting even a small car in there means you've got to be mighty careful not to bang the mirrors on the garage door sides. And there's certainly no room in there for stuff like a lawnmower or snowblower or bicycle. So if I added, oh, say, 6-feet to the side of the garage, and 10-feet to the back of the house, not only would I have room to store stuff in the garage, and not have to worry so much about bashing mirrors, it could easily become an attached garage.

But, the thing is, my front steps are crumbling and if I don't get them fixed before long, they're going to give out under the mailman. Not only would my home-owners insurance not like that, I doubt the mailman with the broken back would think too highly of it, either. So, for now, I'm working on saving up enough money to get the front steps rebuilt.

Could I go to the bank and get am equity loan to get ALL of these things done? Possibly. And, as Art Weeks has pointed out, interest rates are at an almost all-time low. But even if the bank would lend me that kind of money, I'm not sure I could make the payments. Even if I could to start, what if something unexpected came up and I couldn't keep up with the payments? Or what if my property taxes, and other prices kept going up with my income not keeping pace? I'd prefer not to join the millions of other Americans getting foreclosed out of their homes.

So I must prioritize.

I must understand that I simply can't have everything I think I want all at the same time.

Right now, for the City of Ames, schools are the equivalent to my front steps. That's the highest priority.

We need to work out the matter of this highly divisive school bond issue, and get that passed first.

Then we need to sit back for a bit and decide whether we can actually afford to do anything else while we're just starting to repay loans for a new pool and new schools. And we need to keep in mind that we already know our budgetary "fixed" expenses are going to increase quite a bit with the financing of the new water treatment plant.

Economists are basically giving even odds that we're on the verge of a second "double-dip" recession. This is not the time to start floating a bunch of bond issues.

I love the library, and wish we could afford to give the library staff everything their heart's desire. Better wages, better benefits, more room, state-of-the art facilities, whatever. But this is not the time to start borrowing ourselves into bankruptcy.

It's sad, but the library is just going to have to wait their turn.

Not to mention

The cost of basics such as just groceries has been going up a lot recently, while most people are either losing their jobs, getting their hours reduced, or at the very least aren't getting comparable raises.

Same with gas prices, which makes even reasonable amounts of driving more expensive.

I haven't seen any reduction in any of my other utility costs either. While my phone bill has remained the same, my heating gas bill keeps going up, as does my electricity and water/sewer bill.

Folks on Social Security haven't had an increase in benefit amounts (a "cost-of-living" increase) for three years now, but prices for most necessities have certainly not remained the same.

The Citizen

An easy call... vote YES to improve the quality of our library and our community.But realistically, my position on the issue is only MY view.
I have one vote. The Citizen attempts to engage conversation and invite critical thinking.
No shame is felt, pride goeth before the fall, and no cynicism was intended... beyond an appropriate point.
Cynicism develops as a result of people being cut off from and cut out of the democratic process.
It's happening in Washington, D.C. and in Ames, Iowa.
Finally, it would only be sad if we weren't allowed to have this conversation.

What do we get for $18 million that we don't have?

Still not clear on what we get in increased service for paying $18 million for additional library space. I go there frequently and I would never consider the library as crowded or in need of additional space. As for content we will quickly be rid of the books on cassette much of the reference material can be reduced or go away, VHS tapes and books on CD will not be around much longer. I think the current space is not used efficiently and some improvements could be made. I just cannot see the need for additional space. From the library's own brochure on why we need to spend $18 million for additonal space, with my notes ():

Why renew?

So we gain more shelf space. For every new book or item we add to the library, one has to be removed –even if the book could still be used. More shelf space means more books stay relevant. (What?, adding space does not make books stay relevant, bette management of collection is needed not more space.)

So we advance our children’s services. Book stacks have greatly diminished seating for our child and teenage patrons. In addition, our children’s services area currently sits alongside adult services, which creates a disharmony for both the relaxed children’s atmosphere and the quieter adult atmosphere. A renewed library will alleviate this situation. (I see plenty of seating and rarely full except specific children's programs which could be easily moved to the very large empty library auditorium, and get rid of the VHS tapes!)

So we improve safety and security for all visitors. Fewer corridors and partitioned rooms will offer more open spaces, which will give staff more control of the facility so they can better assist visitors and observe library space to maintain a safe environment. (Remove the people creating problems from the library, library staff does not take care of problems now why should we think they will with a bigge library)

So we ensure every Ames resident can enjoy all the library has to offer. Our current library is not in compliance with many of the recently enacted
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. A redesigned library will offer accessibility for everyone. (What is not accessible? We can make these improvements without a total renovation)

So we enlarge our meeting spaces. Library programs and other events often exceed capacity of even our largest room. More meeting space will allow us to meet the current demand from community groups. (Give me a break, the price quoted for additional meeting space is far too high, and we have a City Hall Auditorium that sits empty nearly all the time that is available for larger programs. Would like more specifics on this, I see the programs that the Library sponsors and really don't want my tax dollars funding even more of this. If we need community group meeting space it can be acquired at a much lower cost and we have currently vacant buildings all over down town that could be had at a fraction of the cost)

I see absolutely no compelling reason, and very little specifics on why we as a community need to spend a large amount of money on a new library - I'm NO on this one.

What do we get for $18 million. . . Correction to information

There are legitimate reasons to form an opinion when casting a ballot for or against any proposition that is put before the voters. I respect that and I am supportive of a process that allows people to vote upon matters that affect our city. In the formation of one's decision I hope that voters act upon factual information rather than misunderstandings regarding the library and the staff that works diligently to provide the best possible service for the people of Ames. Therefore, I would like to clear up some statements made in the blog "What do we get for $18 million."

VHS and Audio Cassettes: The blogger states that we should get rid of them. They were recognized as obsolete and removed about two years ago. The blogger is correct that the current DVD and CD formats may someday have the same fate but the area taken by these formats is relatively small.

Seating in the children's area: Although the blogger cites that there is plenty of seating in the children's area, there are only two tables with seating for pre-schoolers and none for elementary school age children. Recently we put in a few playful "fall upon" furnishings for the 'tween' age group, but these are more geared toward leisure reading pursuits than study. Same with the teens. In the APL Zone (teen area) we offer four computers and one table with seating and a few lounge type chairs. We provided more space for teens in the 1940 addition when the population of Ames was only 12,500.

Safety and Security: The blogger writes regarding safety and security problems: "Remove people from the library. Library staff does not take care of the problems now. . . ".
Our staff have been trained in procedures to intervene when library users exhibit disruptive or offensive behaviors. This past year, the Ames Police Department responded to 76 calls at the Ames Public Library. We issued "trespass" orders on a dozen offenders. One offender, caught on surveillance camera stealing a wallet, served time at the Story County jail. We also recovered stolen property in at least three instances by use of our cameras. One habitual offender caught stealing library property was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended by the court if he responds to certain court directives. While we do attend to such problems, we do not have staff observation throughout the library which is essential to maintain control over the activities within.

Regarding Meeting Rooms, the blogger suggests that "If we need community group meeting space it can be acquired at a much lower cost and we currently (have) vacant buildings all over town that could be had at a fraction of the cost." Acquiring vacant buildings for the purpose of meeting space, either by purchase of lease, simply cannot be had for less money. Such property would have to be retrofitted, equipped, furnished, and brought up to current building codes. Even if such property was found to be equipped, furnished and met code at move-in time, the on-going costs of staffing and operational maintenance would create new costs for the City. It is more cost efficient to continue the library's role as community center. Even the original Ames Public Library that opened in 1904 had a meeting room with a capacity for 87 people.

Response by Art Weeks, Library Director.

thank you Art

For keeping an eye on these anonymous liars. I appreciate the FACTUAL information you are providing us.

Would you care to...

actually cite the lies "these anonymous liars" are -- according to you -- posting?

Didn't think so.

I've seen opinions (that may not agree with your own), but no actual "lies."

I'm sure you're one of the people that is thrilled about the fact that you can still post here anonymously, so you can call others "liars" without any facts to back you up or having the courage to own your comment.


seems to me the renovation is more about employee comfort than anything. I plan to vote no

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