Library’s $187M plan would reshape system

Voters will shape the future of the Dayton Metro Library System and the services it offers with an up or down vote on Issue 70, a $187 million bond issue to fund a system-wide construction and renovation project on November 6.

If passed, the proposed plan for the system will consolidate the main library in downtown Dayton and 20 branches into 17 buildings. Newer suburban branches would get updates. The endeavor would be one of the largest building projects with direct neighborhood impact in Montgomery County, since the $627-million Dayton Public Schools construction program.

“Every one of these buildings is going to look completely different when we’re done,” Tim Kambitsch, director of the Dayton Metro Library System said. “We’ll have unique spaces where people have access to free materials.”

Most urban branches, anchors in Dayton neighborhoods, would close and be consolidated into larger, modern libraries. There has been some push back from residents who don’t want to see these neighborhood centers close.

“I want to know the location of the larger branches,” said Dayton resident Fannie Dilworth, an undecided voter on this issue.”Will there be transporation for the children to get to them?”

Lisa Meyring, who lives downtown, called the main library a “destination in the neighborhood.” She is excited about the prospect of change.

“Any upgrade to the library is a change for the better,” Meyring said. “Any change to the library is a change for the better, for us.”

If voters approve the 26-year, 1.56 mills property tax levy, the library board will seek design proposals by next summer. Groundbreaking on renovation projects would begin in 2013 and most, if not all, of the projects would be completed in four years.

“The challenge will be working on 17 projects at once, so we can take advantage of lower interest rates,” Kambitsch said.

The bond issue will cost the owner of a $100,000 about $48 a year.

The library system has general revenue of $27.6 million a year and last went to voters for increased operating funds in 2009. That voter-approved 1.75 mill levy generated just over $12 million in 2011.

More than 3.6 million patrons visited a Dayton Metro Library in 2011, checking out 7 million books, compact discs, movies and other materials. Kambitsch said waiting lines for computers have become routine. Many of the branches are too small for library programs and lack community space.

The first step of the construction project will be be to refine the details of each building plan.

Seven urban branches would close and be replaced with three new ones. New buildings also are planned for Huber Heights and possibly Vandalia. Branches in Miami Twp., Miamisburg and Englewood would be renovated and expanded.

Renovations — including replacement of mechanical and electrical systems, windows and updating of public spaces — also are on tap for branches in Brookville, Kettering-Moraine, Trotwood, West Carrollton and E.C. Doren in Dayton.

A study is underway to look at the feasibility of a joint library/city arts center in Kettering. If that plan doesn’t work, the Kettering/Wilmington-Stroop Branch would be expanded and remodeled.

“We have to nail down how we want to use every square foot of those buildings,” Kambitsch said. “We expect that will take four months, then we’ll take the plans to the public to review.”

The jewel in the system would be the main library downtown.

The 1962-era building located in Dayton’s Cooper Park, 215 E. Third St., would be stripped to the steel girders and rebuilt, with 100,000 square feet added, possibly in three floors. The plan includes an underground parking garage, which would be free to patrons.

“The first image we want people to have is of the intense amount of technology in this building,” Kambitsch said.”Whether you’re looking for a hide away in a quiet reading room or you want to gather with a community group, we want to provide spaces that meet your needs.”

Even before the main library opens, people are lined up outside to use the 60 computers inside. The number of computers will increase to about 200 if the renovation plan moves forward. There also will be individual docking stations throughout the building for patrons who want to work on their own laptops.

“The digital divide has not gotten any narrower,” Kambitsch said. “You need an email address to apply for a job. Public Assistance applications are submitted online. People go to the library to get their paycheck stubs. For people who don’t have a computer at home or work, coming to the library is their only option.”

The facility would include quiet reading rooms that have a zero-tolerance for cell phones. Study rooms also would be available for collaborative work or tutoring. The expanded facility would enable the library to provide more public access to historical materials and books in storage, which make up about 60 percent of the collection.

About 180,000 children attend library programs every summer, many are held at the main library.

“Our current children’s room is uninspiring and it’s mostly used by teachers,” Kambitsch said. “The space doesn’t allow it to be the resource to the community that we want it to be.”

For teens, Kambitsch said the idea is to have the equivalent of a soda fountain or bistro space, where patrons could sit down together.

“We want to reach out to teens and keep them as library users,” Kambitsch said. “Right now, our teen space is little more than a bean bag in a corner.”

A section of the library would be dedicated to small businesses, where a specialized collections of books would be shelved. There also would be classroom space for seminars.

Tenative plans also include a coffee shop, possibly a deli or vending machines.

“We’d love to find a Starbucks or Boston Stoker to run a franchise operation in here,” Kambitsch said.

In Toledo, the Friends of the Library, sell new and used books in a shop to benefit the system. In Akron, Project Read operates in a library building. Dayton could have similar operations in the main library.

Stephen Seboldt, a downtown Dayton resident and chairman of the Downtown Priority Board, said he’s happy to see a “long overdue” rebuild of the main library.

“It’s not just going to be a book nook or computer resource center. It a going to be more like a town square, a welcoming community center,” Seboldt said. “They’re expanding the notion of what a library is. They’re really trying to upgrade it into the library of the future.

But, not everyone supports the bond issue.

Residents of the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Association have said they’re concerned about the closure of the Dayton View branch, which was built in 1930.

“Neighborhood libraries, like neighborhood schools make a stronger community,” Golocsenko said. “I think there should be more libraries, not fewer.

Three small branches in the vicinity of Good Samaritan Hospital — Dayton View, Fort McKinley and Northtown-Shiloh — will be closed and merged into a new 35,000 square-foot-building, called the Northwest Branch.

“It will be the largest branch in the system,” Kambitsch said.

The branch, which will serve about 53,000 residents in northwest Dayton, will include a large meeting room, a smaller conference area, a children’s activity room and four tutor rooms. Kambitsch said the Dayton View branch is too small at 6,387 square feet to meet the needs of library patrons and there isn’t room to expand.

“I celebrate what people love about their libraries,” Kambitsch said. “I am confident we will find another use for the Dayton View Branch.”

All of the abanonded library buildings will be marketed. The library system has provided Preservation Dayton with information about the older buildings that will be closed and several non-profits have made inquiries about taking over buildings.