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New library plan gains momentum

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By Mike Malloy


(Feb. 17, 2010 - 8:15 a.m.) The new library’s Plan C appears is getting an A from many important parties.

At a special joint meeting of the city council and the library board Tuesday, many voiced support for the newest concept – a new, three-story building that would replace the 1984 portion of the current library at 515 Douglas Ave. The older, historic portions of the building would remain standing, but be separate from the new library.


Four members of the library board spoke in favor of the latest idea, and none against.

“It achieves a lot of the new concepts, and respects the historical aspects, too,” library board member Sam Schill said.

Resident Anne Kinzel called the new plan “fantastic”.

“To move it across from city hall would have been a disastrous land-use decision. I’m very happy that the board has reconsidered,” Kinzel said.

Last year the library board, choosing between a renovation of the current building and constructing a new facility across the street from city hall, opted for the latter option. Several community members objected strongly to the plan, forcing a reconsideration.

Kinzel, a board member of the Ames Historical Old Town Neighborhood Association – an organization that was opposed to moving the library, believes it is about more than a library, but speaks to the future planning of the entire downtown. She also feared what would become of the current building should it be abandoned.

“The east end of Main Street has some issues,” Kinzel said. “It has a heavy concentration of bars, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it tends to be a bit seedier than other parts. We were concerned if this building became vacant, the city would essentially abandon the east end of Main Street.”

While everyone seemed in agreement on a site, size was another issue.

“Are we building a building that’s too big, and ten years from now we find out that we over built? I want to make sure that question is out there,” council member Jeremy Davis said.

Davis was balking at the estimated $31.5 million price tag for the 96,000 square-foot building.

Residents Sue Ravenscroft and Holly Fuchs, each of whom has spoken out about the library in the past, agreed with Davis.

“What will be done to reconsider that 96,000 square feet in light of the fact that 24,000 people in town are college students that aren’t likely to use the library,” Ravenscroft said.

Said Fuchs: “Ames may want, but does Ames really need a 96,000-square foot library?”

Fuchs added that Iowa City has an 81,000 square-foot library and is a slightly larger city than Ames.

Architect Jeff Scherer responded with, “It is very easy to cherry pick numbers from other cities.”

He referenced a project in Oklahoma that he’s working on that is ¾ the size of this proposal for the same sized city. The difference is that only 26 percent of that city, which Scherer did not name, carries a library card. In Ames, 68 percent of residents are library users. He also noted that wider aisles and shorter stacks – things that make a library more comfortable and usable – contribute to the increased the size.

Library board president Dick Seagrave added that his group needed a forward-looking view on space.

“We needed to be more concerned about what a library looked like in 2030, not 2010,” Seagrave said. “We didn’t want to make the mistake we made (during the last expansion) in 1984 when the building was designed for the 80s, and relied on future expansion.” 

To view our archives of Ames city council agendas, meeting minutes, reports and city-related information, visit


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