The Ottawa Public Library has outgrown its building, library officials said.
“A new building has been on our strategic plan,” Terry Chartier, Ottawa Library executive director, said. “We formed a new building committee a little over a year ago and started meeting and making plans for what we thought that it would look like.”
The committee looked at several buildings and land options in Ottawa, but none fit the bill. Brett Chartier, Terry’s husband and realtor with Crown Realty, came up with a suggestion after listing a property to sell on 15th Street, near the Flint Hills Trail.
“This location came up because Merl Shaffer passed away,” Chartier said. “His family contacted Brett to list the property. In doing that, he got to looking at the property and called me ‘what do you think about this for a new library location.’ I think that would be awesome. He met with them and talked to them about that possibility and they were excited about it. We have signed a contract with them. We are working through a few contingencies.”
The property, 228 W. 15th St., received approval from the city planning commission to change the zoning from R-3 (residential) to public, Chartier said.
“Now it has to go in front of the city commission,” Chartier said. “Once we get [the zoning change] all completed, close on that property, we will go through the process of planning, [making] the actual site plan, designing the building and then we will start a capital campaign shortly after that.”
Chartier said the 15th Street property is the library’s best option to expand.
“This property offers the library and our patrons a great location that includes green space, access to the rail trail, and proximity to Ottawa Middle School, Ottawa High School and the Goppert Building,” she said. “We do a lot of programs with the ORC and that will make it very convenient for them. We have several people who walk to the library from Ottawa Middle School and Ottawa High School. Money from our capital improvement fund and our endowment fund will be used to purchase the property.”
Chartier said the library board doesn’t have an estimate on the cost of the project yet. She said the new building will be about 20,000 square feet, which is 6,000 feet larger than its present location at City Hall, 105 S. Hickory, Ottawa.
“There are needs for more meeting rooms and programming with bigger meeting rooms,” Chartier said. “The children’s department and the adult program are offering classes they have to limit the size on. It will be nice to have bigger activity rooms to allow us not to limit so much. There is a real need for green space. We like to do activities outside.”
The library moved in 1996 to the Hickory Street location from its longtime home at the Carnegie, Fifth and Main.
“The possibility of building onto [the Carnegie] was too much at that time,” Chartier said. “When the city bought this building, [executive director] Barbara Dew saw a real benefit of us moving into [City Hall] instead of renovating the old one. This building has served us very well. We usually stay put for quite awhile. Hopefully this will be a very long-term place for us to be and build on.”
She said the new projected home of the library will be in the middle of a busy part of town, just across from Kanza Park and next to the new Goppert Teen Park.
“We love the fact it will be a very visible building to the public and nobody will wonder where the library is at,” Chartier said.
She added the time line for the project is fluid with many loose ends.
“We are hoping within five years to have it built,” she said. “We are coming up on our 150th anniversary. I don’t know if we will have ground breaking by then.”
Board members and staff spent the past six to eight months looking at libraries across the region to see what they might consider in a new building. A top priority is a drive-thru where patrons can drop off and pick-up books, Chartier said.
“There are a lot of libraries that have outside reading,” she said. “There are several that have little coffee shops in them. Another huge thing we wanted when we moved into this building was the Friends Library to be a part of the building. It keeps them more visible to the community by being combined with us in one building.
“We will have unlimited opportunities to offer new programs and expand on what we are already doing.”