Leader Blues

Monday, May 07, 2007

TOP STORY >>City puts final touch on design for library

IN SHORT: Jacksonville is moving foward with its plans for a high-tech media center in middle of downtown.

By PEG KENYON
Leader staff writer

The final design for a larger, more hi-tech library in Jacksonville is nearing completion thanks to a $2.5 million bond issue previously approved by local voters.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said Wednesday, “It’s getting close.”

Swaim added that a bidding process could begin by June and the actual start date of constructing the new building near Walgreen’s Pharmacy off Main Street could begin by August.

“We’ve needed a new library for some time now,” Swaim said. “The existing library is outdated.”

As previously reported, the new library will be housed in a 13,500-square-foot facility. This facility will be more than just a library.

According to Swaim, the new library will be in a park-like setting with a pavilion on the front east corner of the 2.7-acre plot of ground. The cost of the land and the demolition of other buildings as well as appraisal fees totaled to $880,729.
“The money to purchase the land came mostly from private donations,” Swaim said.

Swaim envisions that the pavilion could be used for weddings and the large meeting room could also be rented out for wedding receptions as well as other events.

A green space will also be directly in front of the library. According to preliminary plans, parking will be to the west side of the building as well as in the rear.

The building will be constructed with pre-cast concrete and brick.
Its metal roof will not be flat. Swaim indicated that since he became mayor, there has never been a city building constructed with a flat roof.

A leaky roof at the current Esther D. Nixon Library prompted the need for a new library.
Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), expects “several hundreds of thousands” of dollars will go to furnish the new library.

The money will come from CALS funds.
The Jacksonville library has thrived because of a long-standing partnership between the city and CALS.
The city is responsible for providing a building and its upkeep. CALS provides the books and staff.

“We’ve been partners for about 32 years,” Roberts said.
More books and audio-visual materials will be available at the larger library as well, and more staff may be needed in the future because of increased usage. Ex-panded services generally lead to more use, Roberts explained.
“There will be more computers,” Roberts said.

A wireless connection will allow the public to bring its own laptop computers to access the Internet in the parking lot or in the park area—even after hours at the new library.

“The current library building now is pretty much at capacity,” Roberts said.
Meanwhile, a search for a new manager at the existing Nixon Library is underway. Kate McKinney, its manager for several years, has apparently decided to go elsewhere, according to Roberts.

A Nixon Library employee told The Leader that McKinney is on maternity leave.