Last week the department heads or their stand-ins were been busy presenting their budgets as presented in the Mayor’s budget, there is a public hearing before the council tomorrow night, the amendments for Board of Estimates are due Wednesday at noon and then they will vote at Board of Estimates a week from today. So, if you have something to say about it, tomorrow night is the time!
Greg Mickells makes a joke about they are not ready to re-purpose the Central Library yet. He says the only notes he has are that there were some deviations to the original proposed budget that he has discussed with staff and the Library Board – the reallocation of funds for the library maintenance support center in out years and construction of the relocated Pinney Branch and after discussing the consequences of those and they discovered that there could be some advantages to the shifting of those funds and they are just happy that the projects were not defunded.
Planning for libraries
Mayor Paul Soglin asks about items 2 – 8 which are various branches that need improvements or relocations and they are at various stages, as the library board do you feel like we have an adequate long range plan because we can’t do them all quickly, especially on the heels of the Central Library. Where is the library foundation on this?
Mickells says that one of the first things he did when he got here was work on the siting policy for the libraries. They looked at criteria to assess the existing properties and future relocations and expansions. They have a very adequate library system right now and with the current operating budget they are not looking at any expansion, but it was important to look at the properties that are leased. Sometimes a lease works ok, but the Pinney Library is getting more and more expensive for us and it would be beneficial to relocate in the area. On the Northeast side they would like to expand services, they are not at a point they know how to accomplish that, they are doing research and investigation but they have placeholders in the capital budget. They are comfortable where they are at, they are looking at raising funds for the Meadowood project and when he approached the Library Foundation on the Pinney Library they were somewhat relieved that they would have a cushion before they had to work on that as well. They are also looking at partnerships with other entities. Hawthorne works with Public Health and that is a good relationship and Public Health has looked at maintaining that. Pinney has a possibility of working with a private entity, they are meeting this week with a developer. He feels the library is in pretty good shape. They would like to own instead of lease and that is what the capital budget is working towards. When they can sustainably expand they will do that, in 2018 they are looking at the Grandview Commons library.
Meadowood and Planning time for libraries
Larry Palm asks how long the Meadowood project has taken. Mickells says that that was kind of fast-tracked. They have had three public meetings so far, the project was modified after it was started to increase the size and work with the neighborhood center. The modifications have delayed that a bit. Now that they have construction documents they are looking at a 4th meeting. Palm says it seems like it was about a year. What he is trying to figure out how long it takes on average – each of them requires planning and he is thinking about an East Side pre-planning element and have a larger master plan so that each branch might have various features instead of having them in all. Mickells says that is a possibility and realistically a year isn’t a long time given that once they site them they will be there 30 – 40 years so how the building fundtions is important. Palm agrees but we budget in one year increments. He says you have to start planning earlier, how do you balance that. Mickells says that is done internally, that is why they do internal reviews of sites to vet them and then they research on their own so when they get to the public process there has been internal work done. They are currently doing research for Pinney and will be doing it on the Northeast library as well and working with developers on Hawthorne as well. Palm says that they are creating a new model and Sequoya Library is the central west side branch and not Pinney is the Central East side branch and that is new, Sequoya we bumped in to and now we are planning with that. Mickells says that he has been here a year and he is not familiar with all their philosophy but he sees merits in a regional approach to allocation of library site, that is why the recommendation was to relocate and double the size of Pinney. That would double the effectiveness, it is really needed, it is one of the busiest libraries. They are researching how to meet the need. They know it has to be bigger.
Northeast side library
Clausius asks about 2018 when they are bringing on Hawthorne and Grandview Libraries, that is $10M and in the next four years there will be maintenance and other issues, is it realistic to bring those two libraries on at the same time. Mickells says that is a good question, they will be looking in particular at the Hawthorne branch initially, that is the priority at this point. With Grandview Commons is an expansion and the question is about operating funds. If the capabilities are there, he could see doing that, but realistically, until he has more information and since it is 4 to 5 years out he cannot give him a better answer.
Clausius is very supportive of this branch going into the Royster Clark site. He thinks that is good and there is nothing about positives. He got in his old beater today and they are moving it 1.2 miles and he thinks it is wierd that they would build another library so close. He can see the Hawthorne library – there has been a lot of talk that it will go in at Union Corners, as far as the library board goes, is that a done deal or wide open yet. Mickells says that Union Corners is a viable site, but there has been no discussion about this being the place it will go. It scores high enough, but no recommendation is made at this time. He asks about moving more into the northeast side and how that decision would be made – it would be done based on scoring right? Yes.
Clausius asks about Grandview Commons library being 10,000 sq ft, is that right. Yes. Aren’t 10,000 sq ft libraries doomed to fail? Mickells says that they can be successful depending upon how they are planned. A good example is Meadowridge, it is a very adequate size to serve the community. For relocation of Pinney that would be a mistake, it would be undersized. Clausius says the same with Hawthorne it should be more than 10,000 sq ft, Mickells says it depends, possibly. It depends upon where it is sited and how it is purposed. Clausius says that is his library and it is heavily used.
Clausius says the developer in the Grandview area is brining some other subdivisions in 2014 and has talked about locating it somewhere else, are you aware there has been discussion of that? Mickells says there are developers all the time offering communities for libraries. Clausius says that he doesn’t want 2018 to be a done deal.
Access for kids
Denise Demarb asked about reallocations of funds for Pinney. Mickells says that originally they wanted development and program funds in 2014 and construction in 2015 and they have been moved back on year. DeMarb says she was very disappointed and it is to many on the east side, its too small, but what disappointed her there wasn’t a placeholder to reinvent branch libraries. There is not one child in her district that has access to the kids on their own in her district, it is too far away. Is there any thought to thinking outside the box. Technology and research and books is an equity issue and with kids not having access to these fundamental tools and ability to do homework, I think we need to look beyond what we are doing. Mickells says that is an excellent question, what the libraries are focusing on are not just the buildings, technology is one of the advantages we have and they are looking at partnering with the Boys and Girls Club to provide more library services, they have meetings with Madison Public schools and others. Capital budget focus is on buildings, but this is what is sustainable. We can accomplish more effectively in isolated areas to look at operating and programming. Those will go a lot further than a capital investment. DeMarb says she is not sure, everyone always talks about the Boys and Girls Club on Allied, but what are we talking about on the Southeast side, there isn’t a Boys and Girls Club, there isn’t a neighborhood center. There is LaFollette High School. Mickells says that this is a tough question and he’d be happy to sit down with her. She says she would like to be part of these conversations. There will be kids through school (hopefully) before these branches through. She says there needs to be a better way to get services without spending a million dollars a year.
Partnering with Schools
David Ahrens asks about discussions with schools about the school libraries and partnerships to use those resources. Mickells says no, it is up to the schoools. A lot of it has to do with operating budgets. They also have a different mission, their materials wouldn’t meet the needs of a library, but he thinks it is important to partner. They are working with Sandburg on the ESL programs, there is potential, but it is not as simple as school closes open the doors to the public. He says he has met with Dr. Cheatam and they are looking to establish collaborative projects.
Anita Weier says she is happy they are focusing on owning instead of leasing. Hopes Lakeview won’t change, its in a poor area and she hopes it won’t get run down. Have you worked on the ideas with the Bookmobiile. Michells says they no longer maintain a Bookmobile. Weier asks why. He says that the bookmobile services was turned over to the Dane County Library system. Weier asks if they offer services in Madison. He says he thinks they focus on outlying areas of the county.
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