By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
The basement floors are rotting, the plaster is falling from the walls, the stairs are separating from the building and that’s just the beginning of a long list of problems confronting the Clinton Public Library’s main branch, says Director Amy Birtell.
“The building is 110 years old and little has been done to it as far as general upkeep,” Birtell said. “We’re facing a lot of challenges with the building because of the age.”
After a number of failed referendums to relocate, library staff is abiding by the will of the people and trying to improve the historic structure by hiring a group of experienced library renovation professionals that will identify what the library needs to succeed.
The needs assessment study will be conducted by a team of professional from Gere/Dismer Architects, Lawson Library Planning, KJWW Engineering Consultants, Paragon Commercial Interiors and Missman Inc.
This group will work with library staff and residents to determine what the library needs to best serve the community and what approach should be taken in order to improve the facility.
Birtell has her first meeting with the team in the beginning of March. From there, the study will involve three to six months of staff interviews, community forums, investigation and assessments.
Assessments will be conducted on all aspects of the library. The team will asses the building systems, energy efficiency, ADA compliance, what renovations need to be made and the potential for a future addition onto the existing library.
“We just need community support. This is a fixture of the community that has served a lot of people,” Birtell said. “I really see this as a collaborative effort.”
The study cost $50,750 with $20,750 coming from the city and the remaining $30,000 funded by a grant from the Clinton County Development Association. The city portion was recently borrowed through a general obligation bond approved by the Clinton City Council
Birtell said she’s aware of concerns over spending money to conduct a study rather than simply fixing what begs to be fixed. However, she said, the study will allow her and her staff to have an improvement strategy that will outline the most efficient way to fix the aging facility.
We need to take care of these things in a systematic approach so that we do it correctly,” Birtell said. “I don’t want to re-do. I want to do it right the first time.”
Once the study is completed, Birtell will be given a plan that is divided into phases with cost estimates so staff can raise funds for the improvements.
“When we get done we’re going to have a plan,” Birtell said. “It’s a plan I can’t put together. I don’t know the ins and outs of restoration and renovation.”
Birtell has assembled a team of grant writers who are applying for funds that would aid the mission to maintain the facility according to whatever plan is produces. The Union Pacific already granted the library $30,000 to repair the stained glass windows and skylight as well as put on outside window covers.
All non-emergency improvements will be halted until the study results are finalized in order to avoid any unnecessary costs or wasted time.
Despite the facility being in desperate need of upgrades, the library proves to be a service the residents of Clinton seek more often than before. According to Birtell, 4,000 more items were checked out in 2012 than 2011. The study and the ensuing improvements partnered with programming additions will only increase these numbers and enhance the experience patron’s experiences, she hopes.
“”When this is done and even now, I want people to know the library has something to offer everyone,” Birtell said. “This is really going to be a cultural, an education and a recreational place to hang out.”