With demand for materials, meeting space and programs at a high, Paul Sawyier Public Library has multimillion-dollar plans to grow.
Since the library moved to its current location in 2006, circulation has grown more than 40 percent. There are more than 7,000 DVDs and 1,300 eBooks checked out each month.
More than 36,000 people have library cards, and more than 20,000 people attended 740 library programs last year.
Plans are still preliminary, but library officials say it could mean a $3.75 million expansion to add about one-third to the size of the building.
They envision the addition as three stories tall, with the ground level dedicated to covered parking. It could include more than 10,000 square feet of additional space for large gatherings, more shelves, storage space and a gallery for art or performances.
Donna Gibson, executive director of Paul Sawyier Public Library, said she hopes it also includes some room to grow creatively.
“We feel like the library is very supported by the community, and they are behind us in seeing everything move forward that we do,” she said from her office earlier this week.
“I feel like we could get a lot of encouragement from the community to improve the library in any way we see fit.”
It could be a year or more before construction crews break ground, but Gibson says she’d like to see work begin “as soon as possible” as long as officials take the right steps.
Patty Crittenden, a member of the library board, said the group has been considering the expansion for two or three years. The board wants to the library to be a center for community activity, she said.
Key to that is a bigger meeting room, board member Mark Overstreet said.
The library’s two small meeting rooms hosted about 1,000 meetings last year for community groups. Other programs have had to move to First United Methodist Church and Westridge Elementary School for lack of space.
“We recently had people lined up in the hall to go into one thing, and people spilling out of the other one,” Overstreet said.
“It’s just become clear to us that the community’s need for this type of space has exceeded what we’re able to offer.”
Overstreet said the library moved out of its old building six years ago because “it was cramped, it was uncomfortable, it was noisy.”
“It was such a small space, and what we wanted to offer in our new space was a different experience where people could come in, sit down, relax and enjoy our materials,” he said.
“As our circulation has picked up, what we’ve seen is what we thought were going to be some quiet areas have become busier and noisier, so that’s something we want to address.”
The library is funded almost entirely by local property taxes, which generate about $3 million a year in revenue. Overstreet emphasized that the library board lowered its tax rate for the upcoming year last week – the fourth year in the row.
“We don’t anticipate needing any sort of tax increase to either build the building or to staff it,” he said.
Overstreet said the board also anticipates paying for the expansion – or most of it – from its savings. The existing library was built in 2006 for $9.5 million, and the board bonded about $900,000 of that, he said.
The board is crafting a request for proposals from design firms, with plans to advertise beginning next week. Local architect JR Meyer has already donated his time to develop a concept for the expansion, Overstreet said.
The board also plans to have public forums to hear what current users – and people who don’t visit the library – want out of the expansion.
“We’ve never claimed to have a monopoly on wisdom about what this building should look like or how it should be used,” Overstreet said. “So we’re really interested in what the public has to say.”