Public asked to check out plans for city library <br />renovation and expansion

The Vermillion Public Library and the city of Vermillion are making strides in what has been a 15-year effort to renovate and expand the library facilities.

"It's something we really need," said Jon Flanagin, president of the library's board of trustees and member of the library planning committee.

Currently, five proposals designed by Architecture Incorporated, a Sioux Falls architecture and design firm are set up in the lobby of the library. Flanagin said the firm was chosen based on their proven track record of dealing with new construction and historic buildings.

He added that the board and the library planning committee hope to have the entire planning process completed by Aug. 1. Before then, the library and city are asking residents of Vermillion for suggestions, comments and concerns about the proposals.

"What the people in the community want is the important part of this project," said Kent Osborne, chair of the library building and expansion committee.

Flanagin added that if all goes well, the city will apply for a public library grant through the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The board of trustees and planning committee hope to have a decision by the USDA Rural Development by the end of September. Then, they will know how much money needs to be raised locally and given by the city council.

Osborne said no estimated costs for the project have been established yet.

"The architect can give you a dollar figure for every square foot that they build, and for every square foot that they renovate, but we really don't know any fluid number at this point because there are so many different options we can do," he added.

The library building and expansion committee has looked into adding a second story onto the Vermillion Public Library, and updating the Carnegie Library which sets next to the current public library.

"It's really up to the city council on how much they're going to spend on this and how they're going to finance it," Osborne said. "Boy, it's an exciting process."

Construction on the library is planned for the spring of 2011.

One Vermillion resident who knows the library's problems best is librarian Jane Larson.

Larson said that the 32-year-old building and parking lot are too small, and are not fitting the public's needs.

"We've increased a lot of our programming," she said. "If you've ever been here on one of our children's days, you'd know we have to go outside for our children's program because there's no room inside. In the winter it gets harder."

Kid's program participation expanded from about 2,000 children in 1978, to 8,455 children in 2009. The adult and young adult programming needs room to expand, too.

Larson, who has worked at the library for more than 25 years, sees an immediate need for more technology in the building. The library's current technology center has only six computers, yet to adequately support a community the size of Vermillion, the library should have 10 computers, Larson said.

There is little room to house the collection of books, VHS tapes, CDs and MP3 players, either.

"The building was not designed even for a copy machine," she said.

The 11,000 square foot building was designed in 1965. When the facility was built about 13 years later, the city council cut the size of it by nearly a third to offset higher prioritized costs for the city. In the late 1990s, the library had a major renovation.

But the latest library project took off again this spring when City Manager John Prescott created a library planning committee, made up of members of the library's board of trustees, city council members and people from the community. The committee has met twice, with their last meeting being on June 29.

Especially in recent years, the Vermillion library has become a very important part of city, and the numbers reflect that. In 2009, the library had 32,270 visitors.

"People are being more connected to the library and especially in these economic times, people are using the library more," Larson said. "We have a lot more opportunities, too. It fits people's desires more."
"The library is part of a community center to make people life-long learners," she added.

For more information about the library building and expansion project and the current proposals, visit the Vermillion Public Library at 18 Church St. Vermillion, S.D., or go to the library's website at vpl.sdln.net.

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