March 19, 2013 by wcobserver
This proposal was presented to the West Fork Friends of the Library at their regular meeting March18, 2013.
Proposal for a New Library Without Significant Cost to Taxpayers
The West Fork Municipal library has outgrown its current space; the area that was once dedicated to children for story hour and children programs, reading, and children’s computers has been significantly reduced. Even seating for leisurely reading has been removed. A sagging foundation has required multiple repairs and the book stacks to be moved to the newer addition to prevent the threat of collapse.
Our library owns 34,858 items. In 2012 the library circulated 62,297 items; issued 254 new library cards; added 3,807 items to the collection and served 26,144 community members, 2,653 of which are West Fork patrons; all done from a building with 2700 square feet of open space.
A new library would also serve as a community hub, housing not only a spacious library with expanded computer stalls, conference and program rooms, display space for quilts and other art and crafts and possibly a Friends of the Library used book store, but also a home for West Fork’s historical artifacts now on display in the city hall. The Washington County Revenue Office would remain in the new library.
The new library would be located across from the post office, a block from Riverside Park and adjacent to a playground, park pavilion with grill and tables, a gazebo and over an acre of paved parking.
Better utilize the space in buildings the city already owns, maintains, heats and cools by moving the much used Library to the Frank Wenzel Community Center. The current library building could serve as a scaled down community center including a senior activity center (1000 sqft.) which would accommodate the quilting club and other crafts groups. The main area (1800 sqft.) would be a public meeting room available for private groups that would accommodate over 150 people. A small kitchen would be added. The space could also be used as a polling place.
While the West Fork Frank Wenzel Community Center has 6,120 square feet of open space, nearly triple the square footage of the library, it is far less used than the city’s library. Available 365 days a year, according to city records, rent was paid for its use on only 67 days in 2012, operating at only 18% capacity. Only 38 of those rental days (57%) were used by West Fork or Winslow residents. For the remaining 29 days the center was rented to groups from Fayetteville, Springdale, Little Rock, Lincoln, Elkins, and Benton and out of state. The Community Center is about five hundred dollars short, annually, of breaking even after basic expenses are paid from the rental income. Additionally, there is the cost of maintenance, cleaning, repair and capital depreciation.
- The Community gets a more modern, spacious library at very little cost to taxpayers. The Library has some funds dedicated for a building account.
- The new space would create a greater sense of community and provide more curb appeal to those considering a move to West Fork.
- The city would have space for what could become a City Museum that would celebrate and preserve our town’s history.
- The building could provide a permanent temperature controlled space for used book sales with all monies raised purchasing new books and materials for the library.
- The current library building could be used as a smaller community building housing the senior center and a meeting place for civic and community groups.
- A venue for West Fork Quilters and local artists to display their talent and a room for the Washington County Revenue Office.
- The library setting would include over three acres of recreational facilities and paved parking.
- The City itself would no longer have a large public space with a kitchen that could accommodate over 400 people.
- However, neighboring towns and local churches offer event venues with kitchen facilities, restrooms and parking that can accommodate large groups.
- The City would have to seek another place for use as an emergency shelter, possibly the school or one of the area’s churches would be willing to serve as a shelter.
Surely, there will be a feeling of loss for all those hundreds of West Fork residents who have attended family reunions, wedding receptions, meetings and banquets and have fond memories of the old community center. The building has been part of many lives.
However, new memories will spring within the thousands of people who will come to experience, not just a community center, but a new center for the community.