|Casper Journal Articles
From the Natrona County Public Library
The Possibility of a New Library
By Bill Nelson, NCPL Director
January 24, 2007
One hundred years ago, Casper ’s residents began building the first Natrona County Public Library. It took them several years, but on the evening of May 10, 1910, they celebrated the Carnegie Library’s opening on Second Street with a dance. That original library was built on the site where our symbol, the statue of Prometheus, now stands.
Since then, three major alterations have been made to the building, as well as innumerable interior modifications. Each modification was made to keep pace with our growing community. Casper’s has continued to grow, and this has been reflected in the strong demand for increased library service. For example, since the last major addition to the library in 1970, the number of annual checkouts has increased from 218,000 to 570,000 (or 160%). Similarly, the number of annual visits in 1974 was 39,472. That number has grown to 330,790 annually, or a 750% increase. We now see as many patrons in one month as visited the library in an entire year in the mid-1970s!
In 2005, the Library Board of Trustees recognized this trend and adopted a strategic goal to investigate the need for a larger library. To begin the process, NCPL commissioned Library Planning Associates to develop a facility needs assessment. LPA has broad experience conducting similar studies for libraries across the Nation, including the new Laramie County Library. LPA completed their work for NCPL in August, recommending we plan for a 103,500 square-feet library on a 7.3 acre site. These sizes are scoped for a design population of 88,000 and establish the capacity for serving our community for the 21st Century.
For comparison, the current 31,000 square-foot library sits on 1.5 acres. Most library patrons know that the library is currently land-locked, and needs an additional 88 parking spaces, as well as several more meeting rooms. We daily turn away groups that are looking for space to hold meetings.
We are just beginning this building process. You can be assured that we will take the time to properly investigate, design and implement any plans for a new library. A site will need to be identified, and based on a number of surveys, most citizens favor construction in the downtown or West Central Corridor area. The survey also indicated that 74% of patrons were supportive of building a new and larger library. 22% were unsure, and 4% were opposed to the idea.
Many questions are yet to be answered. For example, “How soon will a new library be constructed?” “Where will it be built?” “What will happen to the existing library building?” “What will a new library cost?” “How will it be paid for?” “What will it look like?” “How much input will citizens have in the design?”
One thing I can promise our citizens is that this will be YOUR library. If we are fortunate enough to proceed with this exciting project, I hope each and every Natrona County resident will provide input for its creation. Through this, we hope to deliver top-quality library service to Natrona County for the next 100 years.
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