GALLIPOLIS — It’s a good time to be a librarian in Gallia County.
For Debbie Saunders, Bossard Memorial Library director, there is no better time to be librarian as the Gallia County District Library prepares for construction of a state-of-the art addition that will feature a large meeting room and stage area with ample space for programming among the library’s adult and youth services departments.
“The board and administration of the library are very pleased to able to add on to the current, existing library building. The addition will allow the library to bring additional programming to the area,” Saunders said. “Obviously, for years, we’ve really been building our adult and youth programming for a wide variety of topics and interests, but this will give us the opportunity that our limited space before did not allow us to be able to do. It’s not just about the bricks and mortar, it’s about all the programs we are going to be able to provide to our constituents. We are already very excited and working with our in-house programming staff about all the many things we want to bring to the county once this is completed.”
Saunders said during an interview with the Gallipolis Daily Tribune on Thursday that plans for the nearly $1.3 million, 5,500-square foot addition and renovations have been finalized. Bid packages will be opened during the library’s board of trustees meeting at 5 p.m. April 8 at the library. Construction will follow after the bids have been reviewed and the contractor with the best — and lowest — bid has been awarded the contract for the construction.
According to Saunders, not only will the addition feature a large stage area, room for seating and table space, separate restrooms, extra storage space, a large print room and a kitchenette, but it will also be equipped with state-of-the art audio and visual equipment all for the library’s use in programming — an addition Saunders said is in direct response to the needs of the library’s patrons and the community.
“We view the library as a community center and, as such, we think it is important to have appropriate space to be able to host programs of a variety of nature and have the room to accommodate the people who may attend those,” she said.
The addition will be constructed on the First Avenue side of the current facility on Spruce Street in Gallipolis. It will utilize a currently unused grassy area on property owned by the library and, according to Saunders, will tie perfectly into the current brick building, ascetically and architecturally, as it will feature a large arch-themed window and exterior that will face First Avenue.
The room, which will provide amble seating for various presentations, programs and speakers, will also give the library’s patrons additional work space for studying and reading when the room is not in use for programs. It will also be used for programs in which the library partners with other entities, such as Ohio Chautauqua.
While the large multi-purpose room and stage is the focal point of the new addition, Saunders said the library will also be performing some other renovations along with the construction of the additional space, including renovations in the current mobile services department area to accommodate growth in the youth services department. According to Saunders, the renovations will not include additional collection space, but an enhanced work area that can be utilized by the youth services staff to help plan for library programs, as well as additional storage space for materials utilized for those programs.
Also, the library plans on performing some renovations outside the building on Spruce Street and will add more seating and improved landscaping on the western side of the building for patrons who may want to read or spend time outside the facility.
Another 12 parking spaces connecting to the front entrance will also be added in conjunction with the upgrades to the exterior seating and landscaping area.
The library will also be gaining two new electronic signs that will be situated along First and Second avenues to help inform the public of their many services and upcoming events.
Critics may also be wondering how the local library is constructing an addition when, along with all other Ohio libraries, Bossard underwent major state funding cuts in 2009, which resulted in employee layoffs, as well as cuts in hours and services.
Saunders said that, with the passage of a local levy in 2010, Gallia County voters allowed the library to restore their hours, services and staffing levels, while years of savings in the library’s building and repair fund is allowing it to expand their current facility to help meet the needs of the community.
“The levy helped us to restore our hours, to restore our services, to restore our staff positions,” Saunders said. “This money is in a building and repair fund which is separate from the general operating fund. Basically, we know it’s the administration and board’s responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and as such, we have separate funds. One fund is a general operating fund. We have another fund that’s earmarked for building and repair, so we certainly wouldn’t want to drain our building and repair fund for operating expenses because we still have a responsibility for always taking care of our building.”
The estimated $1.3 million that will be used for this project, according to Saunders, has been set aside by the library’s board of trustees and administration, and will allow for the funding without the need for loans or borrowing.
“Every bit of the money is saved for this,” she said. “There’s no borrowing, the money has already been set aside for this because for years the library board and administration have saved to be able to do this project. So, we’ve had a building and repair fund for many, many, many years. As we can and are able, we have tried to add to that, and we did. We are ready to embark on this now because the funds are there and ready for this purpose. We have established a need for it based on program attendance.”
Saunders also spoke concerning what many people in the community might call a delay in the construction, as the library board and administration have been working to finalize plans for the project for approximately one year — a delay that Saunders said has allowed the library to prepare the best possible construction plans to help meet their goals while also maintaining their fiscal responsibilities.
“We looked at several different options. We looked at what the needs were of the community and we also looked at what would be best from a budgetary point of view,” she said. “We had many different options that we wanted to go with, but we also wanted to go with the option that would accomplish our goals and meet the needs of our patrons, but also be the most fiscally responsible.”
Saunders also added that the delay in construction was also based on timing as, when the board finalized plans for the project, a very wet and wintry season began and officials believed it would be more prudent to begin the project in warmer and drier weather in 2014.
The estimated completion date for the project is mid to late November. Saunders said a groundbreaking ceremony will be conducted this spring once construction is slated to begin, and an open house will be held once to allow the community to view the addition and renovations.
“The library does belong to Gallia County. It is the Gallia County District Library and it belongs to the community. We just want to make it the very best resource that we can to serve the majority of our community members,” Saunders said. “Our goal is to serve everyone is the county by offering programs for all ages and all interests. It’s an exciting time to be a librarian in Gallia County, that’s for sure.”
Saunders also encouraged library patrons who may have questions or comments about the addition to speak with her directly. She also welcomes suggestions from the community about programs of interest that the library may be able to provide in the future.
For additional information on Bossard Library or its new addition, call (740) 446-7323.