Evansville seeks public input for library expansion plans

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Gina Duwe
August 24, 2015

EVANSVILLE—After years of planning for an expansion of Evansville's public library, city leaders want the public's input on plans that will double the facility's size, likely in 2018.

“We want the community to be a part of this because it's their library,” said Eloise Paula Eager, president of the Eager Free Public Library Board. “It's not the board's library; it's the community's library.”

The city hired architect FEH Associates, which will conduct a workshop Thursday, Sept. 17, to solicit input from residents about the design. The all-day event at Creekside Place will include presentations at noon and 5 p.m. and give participants a chance to ask questions and provide feedback.

“Libraries are much more than books,” Eager said. “This is not an expansion for book collections.”

While that will be included, more space is needed for the growing community, and it should be a state-of-the-art space, she said.

The city and library board plan to add on to the library's south side. Plans call for demolishing the building housing the U.S. Postal Service and building across the alley that runs between the two buildings.

About eight years ago, the city bought the building at 16 S. First St., which the post office rents. The post office's lease expires at the end of 2017.

Eager and Mayor Sandy Decker declined to state cost estimates until more details are decided after the public workshop.

“Until we really hear from our consultants, we don't really have firm numbers,” Decker said.

The tentative plan calls for the city borrowing money as a capital project to construct the expansion while the library board would raise private funds for inside amenities, they said.

The city this year is spending $16,500 on a planning contract with FEH and $15,000 with The Sweeney Group, a Madison fundraising consultant. The city budgeted about $40,000 next year for continued work with both consultants.

The library opened in 1908 after Eager's great-great grandfather Almeron Eager left $10,000 for a library after he died in 1902. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. An addition in 1996 encompasses the checkout and computer area and the children's area downstairs.

The existing library is 6,785 square feet.


The library board completed a strategic plan it started almost three years ago. Milton library consultant Bill Wilson worked with the board on a space needs analysis, and the strategic planning committee developed the “Engaging, Energizing and Enlightening Evansville,” or E4, plan.

The plan calls for:

—Increasing teenage and adult collections

—Increasing the children's area for additional programs

—New study rooms

—Separate meeting room and program room

—Quiet reading areas for adults and children

—Expanded computer areas with flexible technology

—Storage and staff work areas

—Larger, better-equipped local history room

Changes to the existing library would depend on what the addition includes, Eager said.

The fundraising consultant will send out surveys soon to community members as she determines how much the city and board could raise for the project, she said.


The expansion also touches on a broader downtown issue: a parking shortage. Decker and Eager noted the lack of parking in the library area, which includes a recently expanded dental office and three churches within a block.

Options could include underground parking in the new library addition, a parking structure or lot, or a reconfiguration of existing parking.

“It's really a good time to take a look at (parking),” Decker said.

Evansville Postmaster Darnell Schuur said the post office is looking at all possibilities to relocate in or near downtown, either in an existing building or building new.

“We would like to remain as close to the downtown area as possible,” she said.

She couldn't elaborate on specific locations, she said.

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