When Whitewater’s Irvin L. Young Memorial Library was built in 1991, video cassettes were becoming affordable enough for libraries to carry.
The library isn’t falling apart, but Director Stacey Lunsford said they have not been able to do what the public expects of a 21st century library.
“Libraries have changed so much over the past 20-odd years,” she said.
Space has been an issue, she said. The staff workroom is filled for storage, and space for AV equipment and computer cables is limited.
The library is 14,900 square feet, but the library is looking to add another 10,000 square feet.
After talks fell through with Minnesota-based developer Troy Hoekstra to build a library attached to a hotel and medical clinic, Lunsford said the library board is on its way to sending out a new request for proposals to expand or build a new library.
After approving the step at an Aug. 27 special meeting, Lunsford said they will send the request to developers Friday.
The Whitewater City Council is scheduled to review the proposal at its Sept. 4 meeting, where the governing body could request changes.
The request is for those interested in mixed-use development on the 2.75-acre space made up of the library and extra space the city and library acquired around it.
Since Lunsford started in 2002, she said the library has undergone several space needs assessments, conceptual plans and site feasibility studies.
Hoekstra was looking at various chances for partnering on the development, but none of them panned out, Lunsford said.
“It just didn’t work out with the goals that we had and the goals that he had,” she said.
Lunsford said the library is still interested in looking at a public-private partnership.
“The Library and City may be willing to provide the land in the Library Project Area, without charge, to a selected developer as a means of incentivizing this project,” the request states.
The cost to the library would be less than building a new facility on its own, she added.
“We and the developer would be able to leverage some incentives to make it really cost effective and advantageous to all parties,” she said.
The public-private partnership route has become more common in urban areas where space is limited, Lunsford said. It’s also starting to come to smaller areas, such as Platteville.
A third partner in the setup could even be a nonprofit, she said.
The request lists some potential options of other uses for the space, such as retail, office, medical or residential.
The library is working with the city’s Community Development Authority because of their expertise with developers, Lunsford said.
Meanwhile, the library will have to get by with how it is.
The public meeting room has been in higher demand. Staff also want to provide a quality makerspace given the rising interest in STEM education, but Lunsford said the space they have isn’t best suited for it.
Still, Lunsford said she is “very hopeful and very optimistic,” and she is looking forward to the process.
“This could be a very good thing for us,” she said.
Proposals, under the preliminary timeline listed in the request, would be due Dec. 7.
The schedule from then on, which is subject to change, would see the city notify finalists for the project Feb. 1. A public presentation on the project would take place at a joint council and library board meeting Feb. 19.
The board could approve a contract March 11, and the council could do the same March 19.