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Drury proposal could change Barry-Lawrence Library plans

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In July 2008, the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library accepted property for a new Monett library on Old Airport Road, a gift from the Witt family. Plans proposed by Drury University to create a new campus downtown in which the library could be located may change the library's strategy. The library must raise $1 million more to have enough to build the branch. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
The proposal to establish a permanent campus in downtown Monett for Drury University opens new possibilities for the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library.

According to Jean Berg, retiring library director, if Drury proceeds with its proposal to create a campus out of the historic Jumping-Jacks factory building on Front Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, most of the first floor would be available for the public library.

Richard Werner, architect for the library's Monett project, looked at the facility in December 2010 with Berg and Drury's architect. Werner has prepared drawings for how the library branch could fit into the available space.

Drury's plan offers 9,350 square feet for an adult library and 3,255 square feet for a children's library.

Berg said the space is large enough that the library would not need to build a new branch on Old Airport Road. The library has been trying to raise money since 2008 to build a 13,520-square-foot facility on property donated by the Witt family. The library has raised $1,023,053 of the approximately $2 million needed to build a new Monett branch.

Werner estimated the move into Drury's proposal building would cost $850,000, within reach of resources already available for the project.

"I've always said a library works well is an old grocery store," Berg said. "What you need in a big open space to put in rows and rows of [shelving] stacks [for books]. Drury's plan would offer us the same room for book storage that we'd have in our new building."

The Drury proposal offers another advantage in space for public-use computers. Werner designed space for 17 computers in the adult area, eight in the teen section and six in the children's section. The 31 computers are far greater than the plan for 12 public-use computers in the proposed library branch.

In Werner's plan, the library would have access from Front Street. The central entrance would have the children's section, complete with a separate bathroom and open space for programming, to the left. The main library would be straight ahead. The teen section would be in the rear. There is also enough space for a public meeting room as well.

The addition of wireless Internet access would alleviate the need for much of the wiring needed for computer use now, Berg said. Wireless would also enable customers to bring their own laptops to the library for Internet service.

Library board members have shown interest in the Drury plan. A number of unknowns would have to be resolved before proceeding, Berg said.

"The big unknown factor is rental cost," Berg said. "We traditionally own our buildings. We can't afford to pay a really large fee on rent. Heating and cooling would be separate."

Drury officials talked about having a flood control plan in place before opening the building. Berg said the board would want assurance that any flood control strategy would work. In addition, she wanted to know how the city's proposal for a bypass channel for Kelly Creek south of the building would affect parking, another chronic problem with the present location at Sixth and Bond streets.

If the Drury proposal was workable, Berg said the library would keep its present location for the library's administrative offices, book processing center and technology services operation. The building would also be open to the public for use of the public-access computers.

"It certainly has potential," Berg said. "It would help us get into a new building faster. Having a Drury campus in Monett would be a real asset for Monett, especially for the downtown."

Berg said if her successor, Gina Gail Milburn, could raise another $1 million before the Drury project comes together, the library would proceed with its original plan to build its own branch. Usage doubled in the other branches in the regional library system where new buildings were added. Patrons also take personal ownership in being part of making a new building possible.

"Something's got to give," Milburn said. "So many things that have been done have been put on hold. If we raised more money [and didn't build], we would have the potential to add things we didn't have, like e-books. Downloadable is the wave of the future."

"I want to see it [the new Monett branch] happen," Berg added. "It's got to for any kind of growth to occur."

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