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Plans to increase size of current library unveiled

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By Lauris Olson

(Feb. 18, 2011 - 10 a.m.)  The newest plan for upgrading the Ames Public Library will add over 27,000 square feet of floor space inside and expand the building’s footprint outside,

The Ames Library Board reacted positively to the preliminary drawings presented last night by architect Jeffrey A. Scherer of Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle , LTD of Minneapolis.

The plans for the first floor call for enclosing the now open, narrow garden and entrance area on Douglas Avenue. Patrons would enter the building using a gently sloping ramp into a large vestibule and customer service area.

First floor schematic. (Courtesy of Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastler, LTD)

The Farwell T. Brown auditorium would be relocated to the east side of the building, which would be altered to include large windows.  The southern part of the first floor would be an expanded children’s section.  The current auditorium would be renovated to hold a new young adult area and new toilets.

The southwest corner of the library would be extended to replace the current rain garden with staff-only accessible area such as the mechanical room stretching along the west side of the first floor.

Building out the east side of the library to Douglas Avenue and building out to the alley on the west side will add 14,611 new square feet.

Another 13,000 square feet of additional floor space would come from removing the current mezzanine and extending the library’s second floor.

Second floor schematic. (Courtesy of Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastler, LTD)

Most collection sections such as non-fiction and adult fiction will be on the second floor. The second and third floors of the north section – the original 1904 library – will hold meeting rooms, the boardroom and the administrative office suite.

In all, the proposed project will increase the library’s size from over 51,000 square feet to more than 77,000 square feet.

The building’s exterior also will be enhanced by increasing the number and size of windows and using limestone accents that match block of the 1904 section.

“I didn’t know that windows could be so inspiring,” said board of trustee member Sam Schill. “This is a different way to look at the library. It brings out some warmth.”

The latest drawings are a response to the negative community reaction several months ago when plans for erecting a new structure on a city-owned parking lot two blocks to the west of the current location were announced.

“We shifted six months ago due to a number of factors,” Sherer reminded the library board. “With this plan, we were able to get most of what we and the community wanted out of the project.

“It is designed to be flexible right now as mostly a print sentry, but in 50 years, who knows what the needs will be.”

Total construction and equipment costs for the new plan will be about $20 million. Library director Art Weeks said that they hope to raise $5 million from grants and private donations and cover the remaining $15 million through a bond issue.

The board is hoping the bond referendum can appear on the November 2011 ballot.

Despite an increase in space, operating costs are expected to stay about the same, said Weeks.  The proposal is based on the building earning a silver-rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program.

“The building is extremely energy inefficient right now,” he said in a pre-meeting interview. “And we expect to need very little if any new staff due to the installation of some more automatic materials-handling equipment.

Library Board of Trustees chair Dudley Luckett agreed.

“I think it is worth emphasizing that this will be more efficient for the staff and more efficient for the public. It will also be much more energy efficient than the building we have now. I pleased that our three years of work has paid off.”

The board will next gather input from the public about the proposed plans. Meeting times have not been set yet.


Nice article, Lauris. Thanks. This would be a FABULOUS addition to the Main Street area and a way to show for the value Ames citizens place on education.

Less here, not much more, there.

A smaller "downtown" library would provide funds for an even smaller branch library in West Ames, where more and more people are living. The downtown area is not the All and All of Ames, and we must think about other areas in need as well. But then, how many times must we hire some outfit to provide us with ever-more "floor plans"?

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