10 years and $187M later, Dayton region has new library system



One decade after voters in Montgomery County approved a massive $187 million bond issue to fund a system-wide library construction and renovation project, the Dayton Metro Library system has been reshaped and revamped.

Ten years in, the library system is wrapping up its final project in the Libraries for a Smarter Future initiative, with the new Huber Heights branch opening Friday, just under one year after its construction began.

Voters approved the 2012 bond issue with a 62% majority. Jayne Klose, community engagement manager for the library system, attributes the community’s “tremendous support” of the bond issue to the role libraries play in facilitating healthy, thriving communities.

“People value their library,” Klose said. “We get fantastic quality ratings, even from non-users, so people don’t even have to use the library to understand its value.”

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Reflecting on the impact of the decade-long, multi-stage effort behind the Library for a Smarter Future initiative, Jeffrey Trzeciak, who has served as library system executive director for the past two years, said the undertaking sets Dayton apart.

“Because of my experience working in libraries across the U.S. and Canada, and having the opportunity to speak internationally about libraries in Europe and Asia, I can say there’s nowhere else that I’m aware of where the library system was able to go about replacing or dramatically upgrading all of the library’s facilities,” he said, highlighting the effort of former director Tim Kambitsch in spearheading the overhaul initiative.

“Dayton is really unique in that way. I think it really shows tremendous leadership on the part of my predecessor, but it also shows that Daytonians care deeply about libraries and understand their importance,” Trzeciak said.

Deteriorating buildings replaced

Klose was a central figure in the planning for the bond issue campaign, serving as campaign coordinator for Citizens for Good Libraries, the group responsible for the behind-the-scenes work on the ballot measure.

One of the most urgent issues that spurred the campaign was the library system’s aging infrastructure and need to keep pace with technological advancements.



“At that time, the average ages of our branches were 50 to 75 years old. They were energy inefficient and certainly weren’t built for technology, at all,” Klose said. “We had extension cords taped to carpet to power the computers, so upgrades to these buildings were sorely needed.”

Ageing buildings paired with an increase in library patronage resulted in the slow deterioration of the library system’s functionality, Klose said.

“We were coming off of the 2008 recession and during the years following that, library usage was at an all-time high, so it was the right time to bring our libraries into the 21st century,” she said.

Branches consolidated

The Libraries for a Smarter Future project brought the number of library locations from 21 to 17.

“Several of our city of Dayton branches were very close together, so when we consolidated them, the new location would be generally a mile or less from where the old branches were,” she said, adding that this allowed for the addition of more amenities.

“It’s more cost-effective to construct a larger branch so that we can include things like meeting rooms, more staffing, and to be good stewards of the taxpayer money by giving those neighborhoods the library amenities they deserve.”

While most of the Dayton Metro Library locations were demolished and reconstructed completely, there were a few that were instead renovated, like the Electra C. Doren facility, which was the first project completed as part of the Library for a Smarter Future initiative. Located at 701 Troy St., this branch is housed within a historic building library officials wanted to preserve.

Other renovated locations were also expanded to facilitate upgraded features and amenities. This includes branches in Miami Twp., West Carrollton, and Kettering-Moraine.

The new Northwest branch is a consolidation of the former Dayton View, Ft. McKinley, and Northtown Shiloh branches; the Southeast branch project consolidated the Belmont and East branches; and the West branch consolidated the Madden Hills and Westwood branches.

Total cost exceeded $187M

The cost of each project varied widely, from $1.8 million for the historic renovation of the 4,800-square-foot Electra C. Doren building, which reopened in 2015, to $63 million for the new Main library, which opened in 2017 and includes 150,000 square feet of building space, along with a 75,000-square-foot parking garage.

The initiative also included construction of an operations center for administrative and support offices, which was moved out of the Main library to house backroom operations at a lower cost per square foot. The center was relocated in 2016 to the renovated former Sachs Pruden Brewery on Patterson Boulevard.



The final phase of the bond issue initiative has come to an end with the completion of a 27,000-square-foot Huber Heights branch, at a cost of $14.5 million.

The total cost of the Libraries for a Smarter Future campaign is around $196 million. According to Dayton Metro Library Finance Director Chrissy Sanders, the bond covered the majority of the project costs, with library general fund money covering the remaining $9 million.

“Our goal was to use the entirety of the bond proceeds solely for the construction and renovation of several DML branches throughout Montgomery County,” Sanders said. “The board approved the use of existing funds to augment the gap in funding not covered by bond monies. Funding was primarily targeted toward property acquisition, demolition, and to remediate sites to prepare them for construction.”

Continued costs

Library officials said the new facilities will be maintained and supported into the future through the library’s current funding formula of tax revenue, state funding, and philanthropic endeavors.

According to Sanders, the bond levy is used solely to pay back the bonds issued to fund the building projects. Dayton Metro Library also has an operational levy in place.

“The operational levy provides 35% of the funding necessary to operate the library annually,” Sanders said.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

In Ohio, public libraries receive state funding through the Public Library Fund. According to the Ohio Library Council, each month, the PLF receives 1.7% of the state’s total tax revenue — made up predominately by sales and income tax — received during the previous month in the General Revenue Fund. This funding is then distributed to libraries.

This public library funding makes up about 55% of Dayton Metro Library’s annual revenue.

The library system is also supported by individual and private philanthropy, revenue which often finances the various programs and events held at each library location.

“We are continually looking at ways to sustain our operational costs,” Sanders said. “State funding and the fundraising efforts of our development team allow us to close the gap in funding library operations and maintenance.”

Technology upgrades

Dayton Metro Library Public Services Director David Hicks has worked for the library system for 25 years, beginning his career at the Main library when he was just 17.

“This is the only job I’ve ever had,” Hicks said.

Having worked at multiple library locations, both before and since the Libraries for a Smarter Future project, Hicks has witnessed firsthand the benefits afforded to library patrons through the technological advancements and increased functionality.

“Now, we have community spaces with TVs in each room, digital signage which displays all of our programs, and laptop checkout kiosks where people can rent a laptop while they’re in the library,” he said.



“They can check out a tablet for like six weeks, and we can load eBooks onto them,” Hicks said. “This can make books easier to read because you can enlarge the print.”

The Main downtown branch offers a green screen room, and there are editing suites located at both the Main and Northwest locations, which allows patrons to create podcasts and other digital audio projects.

Free access to laptops and computers is a crucial service provided by the library system, according to Trzeciak.

“The previous buildings were, of course, older and weren’t as easy to wire,” Trzeciak said. “The expectation now is that the buildings are fully integrated, allowing people to come in and access the internet, update their resume, and apply for jobs online.”

Public programs

Dayton resident D’Onna Lawson was visiting the Main library recently to complete similar tasks, using the library computers to check her email and change her mailing address.

“Everything is on the internet now, so if you don’t have a phone or computer access, you can’t do a lot of things,” Lawson said. “That’s normally why I’ve come down here recently.”

According to Trzeciak, every upgraded location was tailored to the uniqueness of each neighborhood in which it resides.

“With every building design, there were at least a couple of sessions the library hosted where we invited the public to come in and see the plans that were in place, and comment on them,” Trzeciak said. “Then we took their feedback and modified the plans, if we could, to meet their particular needs.”



With upgraded facilities tailored to community, the library system is now able to offer a wide variety of programming and events at each location, Trzeciak said.

“We offer a tremendous amount of programming; we hold about 10,000 programs each year,” he said, adding that the programs are free of charge.

DML keeps an updated schedule of programs online, at daytonmetrolibrary.org. Events include things like “craft corners,” educational classes, music events, cultural exhibits, and more, with offerings catered to people of all ages.

“The expectation that people view libraries as book warehouses has gone by the wayside, and what people really want is an experience,” Trzeciak said. “They still want books and continue to use them heavily, especially eBooks, but they also want computer access and in-person experiences.”

‘Welcoming spaces’

Dayton Metro Library also makes a deliberate effort to establish a welcoming environment for individuals of all backgrounds and cultures, Trzeciak said.

“Where we’re really shining is in our cultural programming,” Trzeciak said. “That’s because we want to be reflective of the communities we serve, and Dayton is such a diverse community.”

Oakwood High School student Max Kiernan, interviewed at the downtown Dayton library branch, said it’s the diversity of the Dayton region that makes library services so critical. Kiernan, 17, said equal access to books and research materials can be a determining factor in an informed population.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

“In Oakwood, I believe there’s a $97,000 per year average salary, but for areas that may be less fortunate, libraries are important,” he said. “Books are expensive and not having to buy the books is critical to a society that is well-read and a society that can function properly.”

Libraries serve as a hub for people of all walks of life, Trzeciak noted.

“First and foremost, libraries are welcoming spaces. We serve everyone and we’re designed to ensure that people who are coming in see themselves and feel comfortable in these spaces,” he said. “We’re also one of the few, if not only, places left where you can go and not spend money, and there’s no expectation that you spend money.”

The future of the Dayton Metro Library system is bright, Trzeciak said.

“The focus for the last 10 years has been these building projects, which has taken a tremendous amount of effort,” he said. “Next, we’ll take a fresh look through strategic planning, now that we have these great facilities, and again ask community members what they would like to see to determine how we can best support them.”

Where the money went

Below is the size and cost of each of the libraries built or renovated with the $187 million in levy funds approved by Montgomery County voters in 2012. The total cost exceeded the levy funds, with the difference coming from library general funds.

Electra C. Doren (4,800 square feet) - $1,880,416

Miami Township (18,175 square feet) - $5,202,880

Operations Center (39,372 square feet) - $9,386,700

Northwest - (30,077 square feet) - $11,756,092

New Lebanon - (11,335 square feet) - $5,103,250

Brookville -(12,177 square feet) - $5,034,830

Kettering-Moraine - (13,090 square feet) - $5,349,839

Vandalia - (19,465 square feet) - $7,032,193

Miamisburg - (16,147 square feet) - $6,534,636

Main Library - (150,000 square feet plus 75,000-square-foot parking garage) $63,023,418

West Carrollton - (16,244 square feet) - $5,746,299

Wilmington-Stroop - (20,575 square feet) - $8,132,564

Southeast - (23,434 square feet) - $9,025,780

Trotwood - (12,878 square feet) - $6,644,279

West - (24,003 square feet) - $11.96 million

Burkhardt - (18,137 square feet) - $9.58 million

Northmont - (20,000 square feet) - $9.81 million

Huber Heights - (27,000 square feet) - $14.58 million

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