Library board studying plans for potential building expansion
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
For the first time in 16 years, Crawford County Library System officials are moving forward with studies to expand their main library to enhance services and address safety hazards.
Members of the Crawford County Library Systems Board of Trustees shared their vision for the Devereaux Memorial Crawford County Library with the Crawford County Board of Commissioners at the board’s regular monthly meeting on Thursday, May 25.
Lynnette Corlew, the vice president for the Crawford County Library Systems Board of Trustees, said the information came from public surveys and discussions which have occurred since the library was built in 2001.
“In surveying the community and our employees, we absolutely need more space to service Crawford County,” Corlew said.
Leslie C. Devereaux donated $500,000 to the community in order to get the library built. She wanted to honor her grandfather, William Devereaux, and father, Richard Devereaux, who were avid readers, fly fishermen, and sportsmen who started coming to the Grayling area in the 1920s. In turn, local taxpayers approved a $1.5 million bond issue to cover the remaining cost for the building.
Later, an operational millage was approved for the library and its branch libraries.
One main issue is addressing the safety hazards for patrons coming to and from the library. The library shares its parking lot with the Grayling Elementary School, and it is often packed when there are school activities as well as a bunch of traffic coming to and from the school.
In 2014, the Crawford County Library System purchased property south of the library, which was owned by the Grayling Cooperative Preschool, with plans for a building expansion and to provide adequate parking.
“It’s a safety hazard,” Corlew said. “It’s been bought, paid for, cleared, and it’s ready to go.”
New parking spots for library employees would be placed on the west side of library, where the Ed Parks Memorial Reading Garden now exists. Additional parking would be offered in the back of the building.
On the east side of the building, where current employee parking exists and an entrance and exit for employees is located, a 46-foot by 82-foot addition is being planned.
That space would accommodate a large meeting room for community groups and organizations, as well as a meeting area which would include a small kitchen. The stand alone meeting rooms would allow for meetings and events to be held outside of normal library hours.
“We can do programs without having our entire library system at risk,” Corlew said.
Changes to the existing building would include enlarging the children’s area in the space where the current meeting is located. The space would also accommodate an area where one-on-one technical assistance and lessons for patrons would take place.
“That has taken off in huge way and it would give me a space to work with people rather than trying to find a spot where we’re not going to be disturbing anyone,” said Karyn Ruley, a library staff member who leads the technology programs.
Areas for teens and toddlers would be enlarged and placed near the circulation desk so they are in view of library staff. The library hired Bob Gaskill to serve as security officer to deal with the large influx of students who come to the library after school. There have been come conflicts in the past with the students and adults accessing the library.
A family bathroom would be created in the building for parents who don’t care for taking their infants and toddlers into the existing bathrooms.
“The family bathroom would meet our families’ needs because there has been a lot of requests for that,” Corlew said.
A storage space for the Friends of Library Crawford County Library System would also be added to the building. Corlew said the sale of donated books covers 85 percent of the costs for programs offered at the library.
“They are our conduit for money,” Corlew said.
Library officials have been consulting with Crawford County Treasurer Joe Wakeley, Crawford County Emergency Management Director Doug Pratt, and Crawford County Building and Zoning Director Joe Duran. In addition, a college student has come on board to help with the plans and some of the cost estimates.
“We’re so cautious about spending money without knowing everybody is on board,” Corlew said.
Crawford County Library Director Connie Meyer and Library Board President Debra Friedman recently paid a visit to Devereaux. Devereaux has continued to be a benefactor for the library, making substantial annual contributions to support library operations in Crawford County.
Meyer said Devereaux learned about the expansion plans as well as received updates on programs offered at the library.
“When we presented her with the plans, she absolutely wanted to be updated and kept in the loop with all of the information,” Meyer said. “She continues to love and support this community and the library.”
The estimated cost for the building addition is $750,000. The roof on the library has outlived its 15-year warranty and is leaking.
Wakeley said it would take between $1.2 and $1.5 million to fund the library addition, the parking areas, a new roof, and interior renovations. Wakeley, however, urged the library board not to seek additional millage dollars for the added space since it already has a substantial fund-balance.
“We really took that to heart,” Corlew said.
Through its discussions, the Crawford County Board of Commissioners gave the green light to the library board to hire an architect to help solidify its plans and costs for the project.
“As the community continues to grow, we need more for our children and our adults and the library is a vital thing,” said Crawford County Commissioner Sharon Priebe, who serves as a liaison to the library board.