Committee Needs Ideas For Library’s Future
The committee of Natrona County, City of Casper and school district officials looking to the future of the library needs to do some more work of its own, its members said Monday.
That work, as committee member and Vice Mayor Daniel Sandoval put it, means crafting a set of diagnostic questions starting with what Natrona County needs in a library.
"Members of the committee have been given the assignment to come up with some diagnostic questions to focus the issue of the new library," Sandoval said after the committee's meeting at the Natrona County School District's Central Services building.
Those questions would look at the needs of the current main library at 307 E. Second St., with matters of adequate space and parking, he said.
"The other more important focus question is the needs assessment, so as the members of the committee come up with their diagnostic questions they're going to be looking mostly into the needs, what do we actually need for our library," Sandoval said.
The county just can't abandon the library, because that's the law, he said. "State statute pretty much impels a county to have a library."
A county can financially support at its own discretion, Sandoval said. "But we do need to have a library. So the question, diagnostic or otherwise is, 'is what we have good enough?' A lot of people think not."
The county's and city's resolutions earlier this year creating the committee stated 70 percent of the county 81,000 residents hold library cards, that about 1,000 people a day use it, and that 10,000 students in the school district use it annually.
But the building needs immediate action to fix deficient fire protection systems and install more emergency exits. A report from GSG Architecture stated the remediation would cost $3.7 million and would take 16 months. The library’s board later voted not to renovate because it wouldn’t resolve the problems of trying to grow in a landlocked building.
Monday, the library committee's members were divided about how to proceed.
Mayor Charlie Powell said he's concerned that people will think the committee has already decided to build, and override two failed previous ballot measures that would have paid for a new library.
Powell wants the committee to find a group that will go around the county to ask specific questions about what people want, and then weigh those views about the next course of action. There is no timetable or rush for a decision, he added.
But council member Bob Hopkins said politicians are elected to make decisions, and sometimes they're unpleasant.
A non-committee member agreed.
"I'm looking for a plan of action," Anne Ladd said.
Many of the committee members agreed with Library Foundation Director Beth Worthen that technology has transformed the concept of a library.
"It's more than a warehouse for books," Worthen said. "It a community hub. It's what happens outside a building.