Next week, the County Commissions will vote on whether to form a new library district in the greater Lyons area. If the district is formed, the existence of the Library Steering Committee (LSC), which has lead the effort to create a new library/resource center in Lyons, will end. With this (hopeful) transition in mind, let’s take a moment to consider what the LSC has accomplished.
Let’s begin with what the LSC was designed to do, and not do. Composed entirely of volunteers, but with no budget or bank account, the LSC’s purpose was to gather community input, study possible sites, determine costs and library features, and get a library district formed. The new
library district will be in charge of a new library/resource center.
Aside from the soon-to-be determined last item, the LSC completed all of its tasks. It received a large amount of community input from a survey (268 responses) and public meetings. With a Lyons Community Foundation grant obtained by the Friends of the Library, the LSC retained an architect/library expert to do a feasibility study of staff and programs, building size, and possible locations. The LSC visited and gathered data from similar-sized library districts across the state. Finally, Boulder and Larimer County Commissions will vote Tuesday, September 3, on district formation, after a Thursday, August 29, joint hearing in Lyons.
What the LSC didn’t and couldn’t do was pick a library site, hire staff, or set a construction budget. Under Colorado library law, those duties are left to a library district board, not a volunteer steering committee. The district board will not start from scratch, however, since the LSC produced a range of detailed information to assist the board’s decisions.
Importantly, every step of the way the LSC has shared that information with Lyons area residents in newspaper reports and on its website, www.theheartoflyons.org. If you would like to know the pros and cons of reviewed sites and how they compare to each other, please go to our website. Want to know what features and programs were most desired by survey responders and meeting attendees? Go to our website. Want to know how much a new library/resource center may cost to build and to operate? You know where to go.
The LSC made a concerted effort to be open, candid, and honest with the public about its efforts. This transparency will hopefully allow voters in November and the district board to decide whether a new library/resource center is worth a modest tax increase and, if so, where it should be built, with what features, and at what cost.
Details are on the website, but here are the highlights of the LSC’s efforts:
Location: The library expert ranked the top four locations as the current Depot Library site (the depot would be preserved), the western end of Sandstone Park (visitors center end), the Black Bear Inn property (on the market, but costly, located away from the town center, and on a highway that’s hard for children to cross), and the wood lot behind Town Hall (not for sale, and library districts can’t acquire land by condemnation). Again, details are on the website. If the tax mill levy passes, the district board will choose among sites, including any properties that may come on the market in the interim.
Size: New libraries in districts with similar populations and tax bases have ranged from 4,600 to 7,000 square feet. Our library expert thought 6,900 square feet would be optimal. To see examples of some recently built libraries in similarly sized Colorado communities, check out the pictures in our website’s “Libraries We Love” section.
Cost: The LSC’s best estimate is $2.5 to $3.5 million. It would be funded partly by tax-backed borrowing (forty-year loans are available at 3%), partly by foundation grants, and partly by a soon-to-be-launched capital campaign to match a $250,000 anonymous donation.
Features: When the LSC asked the library expert to do cost estimates for particular library features, it gave great weight to the 268-response survey, which reflected these needs identified by a majority of responders, i.e., expanded book collection (75%), exhibit space (59%), meeting space (58%), kids’ program space (54%).
Performance space: Although only 35% of survey responses identified a performance space as a need, comments at public meetings reflected continuing interest in that option. So the LSC asked the library expert to do cost estimates for a separate-space performance hall. He found it would add more than 20% to overall cost. He also said a space composed of combinable meeting rooms would be less costly and more feasible. A second expert also recently provided additional advice on performance space. The bottom line is that performance space remains an option for the district board to consider.
To conclude, the LSC did the best it could with minimal financial resources and limits on volunteer time imposed by family and business needs. But after eighteen months of twice-a-month meetings, many trips to investigate other libraries, and extensive interaction with Town and County governments, we believe the dozens of Lyons area residents who gave their time and effort to the LSC deserve a big round of applause. They did what they set out to do; gather a lot of community input, investigate and report on library location, costs and features, and put a feasible new library/resource project into the hands of a new district board and voters. Mission accomplished.
Mark Browning, LSC Chair
Andrew Biel, LSC Member