Southside libraries are hot news items ... and rightfully so.
For starters, The Indianapolis Public Library and Beech Grove Library have formed a joint planning committee to study the feasibility of a merger.
A $1.1 million renovation project at Southport Library will begin in the first quarter of 2016, and ground for a new library in central Perry Township will be broken sometime in 2018.
Merging with the IPL will allow the Beech Grove branch to improve its offerings while ensuring its long-term ability to serve the community. A union would give residents access to 25 times more books, 10 times more e-books and countless other resources.
The library is known as a wonderful resource for the community, but it’s limited in terms of the availability of e-books.
Focus groups indicated that patrons would like a merger to provide them with additional resources such as expanded collections in all formats, more children’s, teen and adult programming and updated technology. The library simply isn’t able to make those types of improvements under its current model.
“The only way we’d agree to merge is if we had an agreement that the library would remain open in Beech Grove, all staff would be retained, and that the library would see an increase in available materials, programs and services,” said Beech Grove Library Board President William “Butch” Fennema. “The only changes the public would see would be improvements.”
“We are looking forward to sitting down with (IPL) reps to see where this leads,” said Beech Grove Library Director Liz Schoettle.
“The merger is all about increasing service and access to all of IPL books and services,” said Dr. David Wantz, vice president of IPL’s board of trustees and a member of the merger committee. “We will do everything we can to retain the character of the library. It has a storied past.”
A decision must be made within a year.
Beech Grove Library, whose name would not change if there is a union, has 60,506 books and 11,551 electronic books and employs four full-time and six part-time staff at its 17,000-square-foot building on Main Street.
The facility has served the community for more than 60 years. Originally established in a storefront, it moved into its current building in 1953. Since that time three renovations and additions have been made, the latest in 2002.
Renovation of the 16,000-square-foot Southport Library is welcomed as no major improvements have been made to the facility since it opened in 1974. The general layout is basically finalized, said Rick Rush of arcDesign.
When construction is completed around July, the most noticeable change will be a new entrance at the north end of the building. The book drop-off will be relocated, and there will be additional seating and study/activity spaces, a computer lab, updated heating/air conditioning systems, an area for a future automated materials handling system, improved lighting and more technology applications.
While the branch, which attracted 221,403 visitors last year, will still provide a large print collection, a slight reduction in the number of book shelves will reflect the evolution to more electronic formats. Following a continuing trend at the branch, the number of computers for patron use will decrease from 24 to 22 due to increased use of personal devices.
Incorporating energy and water conservation practices, the project will be funded through a 2014 multi-branch facility improvement bond issue. The building is expected to remain open during construction.
The location for Perry Township’s new $9.2 million, 25,000-square-foot library, which will replace the Fountain Square branch, has not been determined, but it will be situated on about six acres.
The branch’s goal will be to fill the service gap in an underserved population, according to an IPL news release. The library, whose completion date is the second quarter of 2019, will improve the public’s access to services while featuring modern service capability, spacious study/activity areas and a computer lab.