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Draft report on assessment of Allen County Public Library branches recommends replacing two branches, major work at others

The draft report on an assessment of the New Haven branch of the Allen County Public Library and 12 other library branches recommends renovation and/or reorganization at most branches and replacement of the existing Aboite and Dupont branches. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)

Local residents love their Allen County Public Library branches and use many of them heavily. But all 13 branches need updates, several need significant renovation or expansion, and two probably should be replaced.

Consultants provided that news to library board of trustees members during the board’s meeting Thursday afternoon at the Grabill branch library in Grabill.

Vice President Rob Cullin and President Kimberly Bolan Cullin, both of consulting firm Kimberly Bolan and Associates in Zionsville, presented a draft version of the branch library assessment report that ACPL hired their firm to produce.

If all of the suggested work stays in the final assessment report, implementing all of the recommendations would cost an estimated $47,197,500, Rob Cullin said. The library board took no action on the draft report Thursday.

Cullin said assessing the Allen County Public Library system has been challenging because it is unique, based on their knowledge of other library systems. The ACPL system not only serves residents in Fort Wayne’s urban core and the ring of suburbs but also people living in small rural communities in the county, Cullin said.

The library system last performed major renovation or expansion work on its branches from 2002-2007, when an $84 million bond issue allowed the library system to renovate and expand the downtown branch and to do major work at its 13 other branches.

At that time, libraries still operated under a “shush” mentality, Cullin said, with people reading and working quietly. Today, library customers want places where they can meet to talk and to work collaboratively on projects.

Technology also has changed dramatically since the previous renovations, library Director Greta Southard said. For example, the branches need more places for people to plug in to recharge their mobile devices, such as smartphones and computer tablets and laptops.

Library interior design also has evolved to focus on providing flexible space, Southard said. Library users want tables, chairs and other features that can be moved to fit the user’s needs.

For a list of branches and the recommendations about them in the draft assessment report, see below.

In other business, the library board approved buying the new Wise computerized community engagement from OCLC, which is based in The Netherlands but has a U.S. office in Columbus, Ohio.

Among its many functions, the system will allow library users to set up notifications for books or programs that interest them, Southard said. People also will be able to reserve meeting rooms more easily.

ACPL served as the test site for a U.S. version of the Wise system, and it will be the first library system to buy it, Southard told board members. In return, OCLC will give ACPL a discount on use of the system during the first three years, including a savings of more than $300,000 the first year.

ACPL will pay $92,300 the first year, $139,450 the second year and $210,854 the third year, for a combined total of $442,604.

DRAFT BRANCH ASSESSMENT REPORT

Here is a brief summary of recommendations in a draft version of an assessment report on the Allen County Public Library’s satellite branches:

REPLACE

• Aboite, cost estimate $8.55 million to replace or $7.5 million to renovate and expand

• Dupont, cost estimate $9.45 million to replace or $8 million if possible to renovate and expand

Needs: Significant youth space, separate quiet and active spaces, meeting rooms, improve space flexibility for the future, creativity spaces and outdoor spaces.

RENOVATE AND EXPAND

• Georgetown, cost estimate $7.5 million

• Grabill, cost estimate $4.1 million

Needs: Significant youth space, separate quiet and active spaces, meeting rooms, improve space flexibility for the future, creativity spaces and outdoor spaces.

MAJOR RENOVATION AND REORGANIZATION

• Hessen Cassel, cost estimate $2.3 million

• Pontiac, cost estimate $2 million (includes adding entry closer to the parking lot)

• Shawnee, cost estimate $2.1 million (add outdoor space if possible)

• Tecumseh, cost estimate $2.8 million

Needs: Re-allocate spaces, improve flexibility of space, upgrade youth areas, address specific building issues, provide quiet and active spaces, upgrade decor and upgrade outdoor spaces when possible.

MINOR RENOVATION AND REORGANIZATION

• Little Turtle, cost estimate $2.1 million

• Waynedale, cost estimate $2 million

• New Haven, cost estimate $1.6 million

• Monroeville, cost estimate $1.3 million

• Woodburn, cost estimate $1.1 million

Needs: They vary by branch but could include re-allocating spaces, improving flexibility of space, addressing specific building issues, providing quiet and active spaces, and upgrading decor.

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