|Casper Journal Articles
From the Natrona County Public Library
Why Do We Need a New Library?
By Bill Nelson, Director
February 20, 2008
Your NCPL Trustees have been unusually busy this past year. In particular, they have taken the responsibility of looking ahead to ensure our community will continue to experience quality library service for the future.
The library staff has worked creatively over the past 5-6 years to make NCPL an exciting, responsive civic institution. In the process, we have tried to present a clean, welcoming and professionally-run facility.
Many libraries simply continue to fill up their space with older materials and furniture to convince their patrons a new library is needed. The Trustees and staff have taken a different approach, keeping the existing space welcoming and friendly, while planning for a larger space. Our citizens deserve this responsible stewardship.
What is the need for a new library? Patron use has exploded the past 4 years. We are currently serving roughly 1,000 people daily with a variety of library services. This amounts to more people visiting the library in a single month than had visited during an entire year in the 1970s.
Additionally, annual checkouts have nearly doubled to 600,000 or about 2,000 daily. Your library is landlocked and the building has been stretched 3 times over its 100 year history. To top it off, Natrona County ’s population is forecasted to grow at 1.5% (or 1,000 people) annually for the next two decades.
In 2006, an independently-developed Facility Needs Assessment estimated our community should have a 100,000 square feet (sf) library on a 7.3 acre site. In early 2008, detailed conversations with staff refined that figure to 95,000 sf.
Our ideal site calls for enough property to incorporate green space as well as adequate street-level parking. This approach is not only convenient for most people, but will also allow space for future expansion to the facility.
Most people have made it clear that any new library needs to be in the downtown area and we concur. A telephone survey in 2005 verified that at least 50% of respondents preferred a downtown location to either the east- or west-sides. Additionally, the presence of a library in Casper ’s core will help to keep the downtown relevant and vibrant as our community expands.
NCPL needs four fundamental improvements to serve our growing community. First, we need a much larger youth services area. Our current Children’s Department is well-used, but very small. We need a dedicated children’s program room, activity room, a Tween area and an expanded Teen Zone.
Secondly, our community needs multiple public meeting rooms. The Crawford Room is NCPL’s only meeting room. We regularly turn people away who would like to host events. Likewise, library programming is constrained by this single room. For example, when the Friends of the Library host their annual book sale, the library has no room for storytelling or other programs during the 5-week set-up and sale.
Thirdly, our patrons are regularly requesting more specialized spaces such as small group study rooms, a larger Tech Center, and a reading sanctuary, all of which are normally found in contemporary libraries.
Finally, the library needs additional parking. Anyone who has been to NCPL in the past few years knows how difficult it is to find a space. The Trustees have explored a number of options adjacent to the current site and can now accurately say we are truly landlocked.
Over the next several months we hope to bring you updates on our progress. We have indeed been busy, and will likely get busier in the near future! As always, your input is welcomed. Feel free to drop a note in the Suggestion Box at the downtown Checkout Desk or give us a call at 577-READ.
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