NORTH MANKATO — Less than twelve years after the North Mankato Taylor Library opened and less than three years after it was expanded by 60 percent, the library director is seeking another major expansion for the increasingly popular facility.
The $750,000-plus expansion completed at the end of 2009 simply hasn’t kept up with demand at the library, said Director Lucy Lowry at a North Mankato City Council budget workshop Monday night.
“It’s just happened at an extraordinary rate,” Lowry said of the growth in public use of the library.
Circulation has grown eight-fold since the library’s first year, and the facility on Belgrade Avenue has become a “place to be,” according to Lowry’s written budget request.
“More seating space is desperately needed as are more public computers,” she wrote. “The shelves are nearly full again and the basement, where extra copies of items and little-used materials are kept, is also nearly full.”
Lowry is seeking $500,000 in expansion financing from the city in 2015, funded with proceeds of the city’s half-percent local sales tax. The total cost of the project would exceed $500,000, with the additional money coming from grants, she said.
Council members, who will be more focused on the 2013 budget over the next four months, didn’t indicate whether they would support another expansion as early as 2015. But they did question where the land-locked building could grow.
“The logical choice would be to go to the house next door,” Lowry said of the potential for purchasing and moving the adjacent home.
That’s what the city did with the 2009 expansion, moving what was then the nearest home — which added well over $200,000 to the $560,000 construction cost. Lowry said the city might also consider adding a second floor and elevator to the building to allow for future growth.
Another option would be to add a library branch on North Mankato’s hilltop, although Lowry said she has mixed feelings about operating a second facility that would be located a relatively short distance from the existing library.
The popularity of the library brings a more immediate budget issue to the council as well. Lowry is requesting the addition of a half-time staff member, bringing the staff total to 5.75 positions. The library’s staff was five full-time-equivalents when it opened and had a circulation of 31,000, and the number of books and other items loaned in 2011 reached nearly 237,000, she said.
The only other requested boost in staffing Monday night involved two additional part-time workers in the Streets Department.