Jeff council hears library’s needs assessment


Jefferson public library, 2018 | GCNO photo

The Jefferson public library building is two-thirds the size it should be considering the services provided there, and less than half the size it should be to provide the services expected of a 21st century library.

That’s the conclusion library consultant George Lawson shared with the Jefferson city council at its June 26 meeting.

Lawson visited Jefferson in January to tour the library, meet with staff and library trustees, and hold public forums gathering information for a needs assessment. The purpose of his study was to make recommendations about the amount of space needed and the best use of space, now and in the future, to deliver library services, house the library’s collections, and offer educational programs. His study was funded by a grant from the State Library of Iowa.

The children’s library

The library’s two sections – the 1904 Carnegie portion and the 1966 addition – total 8,000 square feet. According to Lawson, that size is “significantly too small to meet the community’s existing and future library service needs.” He continued, noting that the layout and organization of the building “are obstacles to ease of use by residents and to efficient operation by staff.”

The library’s current services and operations would require at least 12,382 square feet, Lawson said. In planning for the future, he recommended between 16,692 and 19,260 square foot to meet the expectations of a 21st century library.

He compared the Jefferson library’s expenditures per capita, square feet, staff fulltime equivalents, public internet computers and internet uses to those of seven libraries in towns of similar population. He also compared the same data to that of the Boone, Carroll, and Perry public libraries.

His comparisons showed the Jefferson library lends 50 percent more items, provides twice as many programs, and has a book collection 17 to 28 percent larger than its peers, but in a building that is smaller than average for either peer group.

Adult library

Lawson met with library staff Tuesday and suggested two low cost changes to provide more room. The staff weeds the collection continuously, but he recommended taking even more books from the non-fiction collection. He said that with the availability of the internet, libraries no longer need as many non-fiction books.

He also suggested making the circulation desk smaller and less of a barrier between staff and patrons.

Lawson’s needs assessment concluded that a larger, more effective library should be “actively and immediately pursued” either at the current site or a new location. A coordinated effort by the library board of trustees and administration, the city council and administration, and the Friends of the Library would be required.
Identifying the best course of action would require hiring an architectural firm to conduct a feasibility study, Lawson said.

The city council has not discussed large capital expenditures for the library. The library has not appeared on the list of 34 budget priorities developed by the city council in the past 10 years.

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