February 21, 2018

Wichita, Albany Libraries Unveil New Plans

By LJ Staff

The board of the Wichita Public Library (WPL), KS, has unveiled a $56 million, 15-year master plan for libraries, involving a new 135,000 square foot central library by 2011 and two 25,000 square foot regional libraries to replace three smaller branches, a new 7500 square foot library replacing two other branches, and the expansion and/or remodeling of the remaining facilities. Next month, the city council will decide whether to endorse it. Based on positive reaction to the presentations WPL made in each council member’s district, director of libraries Cynthia Berner Harris said she anticipates the plan will be approved. A public survey determined that, by a three-to-one ratio, Wichita citizens would rather drive longer, up to 15 minutes, in order to reach a larger facility offering more services. Focus groups revealed that even regular users "didn’t understand all we have to offer," noted Berner Harris. This information was used to secure a $25,000 grant to market library services, increase outreach and partnerships, and "think outside the facilities themselves."

The Albany Public Library (APL), NY, is moving forward with a $65 million strategy to replace the central library with an 85,000 square-foot facility, a nearly 50 percent increase, build two new branches, and renovate two other facilities. If trustees accept the plan next month, the measure could be placed on a December ballot. The improvements would increase the current tax rate about $1 per $1000 assessed property value over 30 years, almost doubling the current rate of $1.11. APL director Jeff Cannell said that Albany remains a community of neighborhoods, with 85 percent of those polled preferring a branch located within one mile of their home. An earlier plan for larger but less accessible libraries was nixed. The new branches would be between 9000 and 14,000 square feet, with separately accessible community meeting rooms, disabled accessibility, parking and green space, and expanded collections and public access computers.