Biggar: Remodeling Appleton's Library vs Building New / by Tom Roessler

Prepared November 2014 by: Curtis Biggar Architect / Broker 

Andrew Carnegie is credited with founding the free public library system, in the late 1800-1929’s, open to all, and for instituting the open stack policy which allowed patrons to browse the libraries volumes. Carnegie’s target audience was ‘for those who are industrious & ambitious, not for those who need everything done for them.” 

Modern technology has changed the need for libraries to such an extent that a new mission statement needs to be defined.  Information technology accelerates while it’s cost decreases, creating an uncertain future for libraries if their mission is not changed. I recommend the added use as a public forum, where community issues can be identified, discussed, and acted upon free from political interference. 

I became interested in the APL 150 initiative by the Library board & found the Library board was not acting in accordance with state law. Instead of holding public hearings in the library itself. The public meetings were held in City Hall with taxpayer input limited to 15-20 minutes prior to committee actions & in nearly every case public input was ignored.

The Library board has spent about $200,000 on consultant fees which rate the existing library building between good & excellent condition. The board also authorized over $80,000 in architectural fees for a preliminary design on a riverside site that has no room for parking or emergency access. The property is not owned or secured by the city & the architectural fees may prove to be a wasted expense. Instead of allowing the library board autonomy, the mayor injected politics by publicly admonishing opponents to a new library, who favored a referendum. 

I prepared a design for a remodeled existing library that would be state of the art and meet highest green standards. It could be remodeled at less than 1/2 the cost of the proposed new library. The consultant advised the library board it would cost over $32 million to remodel the existing building, but provided no backup documentation. This figure is being used to justify a new library at a cost $37 million plus parking & street reconfiguration which I believe will exceed $50 million & require purchase & demolition of the downtown clinic. The need for more library floor space is a falsehood. Installation of the Automatic book storage & retrieval system could reduce the required space for volumes by over 50% leaving abundant space for browsing & for special learning Quadrants. It would also meet the needs of public forums. 

12/18 Update by Curtis: The library board has now wasted nearly $1 million on consultant fees related to the library project. That figure should be requested from the city treasury. If it is determined that additional space is needed a three-story addition could be added to the present atrium providing 10,000 additional square feet.

Submitted by: Curtis Biggar