By David Dupont
BG Independent News
With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, the Wood County District Public Library is once again turning its sights to its future construction needs.
At Monday’s board meeting, library director Michael Penrod discussed the need to reinvigorate plans to renovate and expand the library.
The pandemic, he said, has given him and the administrative team time to take “a more granular look” at the needs of the library, as requested by library administrators. .
He even wondered if during the days of COVID-19 if he had caught a case of “expansion fever”.
In 2019, the council was featured by its options for renovation and addition – good, better, better.
The best came with a prize of $7.4 million. Although attractive and meeting the needs of the library, this could not be done as it required an addition to the north side of the building. City plans to renovate and expand the old post office into a new municipal building were taking up needed space, and the main service lines running down Clay Street would have to be moved, which would cost too much. .
Penrod did not offer a plan or make any suggestions, he only indicated basic options and needs.
“We can build anything you want if you want to raise $7.4 million, but I don’t think it’s doable,” he said.
First, the library will remain downtown. “We have to be in the center of the activity,” Penrod said. This means the library is landlocked, bounded by Court Street to the south, the city’s new building to the north, its parking lot which has essential utility lines below, and South Main to the east.
Penrod said that instead of building the library, he might consider building a second floor. Another possibility would be to build to the east of the southern part of the building on the lawn.
“We would leave the Christmas tree alone,” he assured the board of directors.
Among the questions posed by council was the importance of providing meeting rooms. These are rented out to community groups and members. Is the role of the library to provide a place to organize a birthday party or a baby shower? Or is it another way to serve the community?
The administrative team also reflects on the importance of the collection. Perrysburg’s Way Library, Penrod noted, has a collection half the size of WCDPL’s, but its circulation is twice as large.
Penrod referenced an article in The Atlantic that focused on students. The article argues that patrons “just want a normal library,” places to study and collaborate. They want basic in-person service and print, not digital books. They want more robust WiFi, not the ability to borrow sewing machines and other items.
Building a second floor would allow for administrative offices, which now face North Main Street upstairs.
Board chairman Brian Paskvan said he would rather have windows showing children enjoying the library than “the back of Michael’s head”.
Board member Becky Bhaer said she liked the idea but was concerned that in these times exposing children behind glass could pose a safety risk.
“We’ve been through two completely different years that have changed our perspectives,” said board member Ken Frisch. “Construction costs have increased. We didn’t have a place near the Carter House. There have been dynamic changes.
Earlier this year, the library purchased a rental house just north of Carter House. It was demolished this summer. Penrod said he would like to install a suitably designed storage facility there that would complement the architecture of the Carter House.
One of the options discussed was the construction of a local history center, but this was rejected as it would divide the staff.
Penrod said he could see the space growing as well as a venue for outdoor youth programming like the programs that have been offered on Wooster Green during the pandemic.
Penrod said none of these ideas had a cost. Something has to be done, and the decision has to be made. Penrod said he was also renovating the interior of the library and did not want to spend money on carpeting that will be torn up in a few years.
The administrative team will complete its work and prepare recommendations to present to the Board of Directors in February. Penrod hopes construction can start in 2024-2025.