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February 17, 2014

Board votes to open new West Terre Haute library

Building should be finished in 2015, official says

TERRE HAUTE — Advocates for the town of West Terre Haute expressed satisfaction Monday night after the Vigo County Public Library board of directors voted to open a new library branch in the community in the next two years.

The board has been discussing the fate of the current West Terre Haute library branch for years. At its Monday meeting, the board approved an “action plan” that included steps toward opening a new facility in West Terre Haute.

The current branch, on National Avenue, would likely remain open until a new facility is ready, said Kristi Howe, library director, speaking after the meeting. The board has not formally made that decision, but “I can’t imagine any reason why it wouldn’t,” she said.

The new library facility will either be in a former child care facility at Johnson Avenue and Church Street (near the West Terre Haute Community Center) or on donated property at Sixth Street and National Avenue not far from the current branch.

The board should decide between those two locations in the next month or two, said Hank Metzger, board president, during the meeting.

The estimated cost of renovating the child care facility is approximately $600,000, according to figures provided to the board in October. The property at Sixth and National – which would be an entirely new building – would cost about $700,000, according to the figures.

Frank Hill, a long-time volunteer with the West Terre Haute Community Center, applauded the board’s decision in the public comment portion of the meeting. A library branch is vital to the community, he said. “I’m really, really pleased,” he said.

Hill and Sister Dorothy Rasche of the Sisters of Providence Connecting Link program, have been urging the board to retain a west branch for several months, and both attended Monday’s meeting.

Work on the new facility is expected to begin this year, Howe told the board. It should be completed in 2015, she said. Part of the money for the West Terre Haute branch will be raised through community fundraising activities, board members stated.

Approval for a new West Terre Haute facility was the second item on a list of priorities approved by the library board in the form of the “action plan.”

No. 1 was completing approximately $500,000 in renovations to the downtown branch. Those renovations, approved by the board last fall, will include new study areas, a small conference room, a teen room, new carpeting and a new reference desk, among other things.

The renovations are to be completed by the end of this year, Howe said.

No. 3 on the “action plan” list is the opening of 24-hour library “branches” in areas of the county currently without nearby library facilities. Branches closed on the city’s east, north and south sides in 2009.

The 24-hour libraries are new innovations in the world of libraries and operate much like vending machines, Howe said. They include checkable materials but also allow library patrons to place items on “hold” that are not immediately available at the 24-hour site.

It’s not yet decided where the two 24-hour facilities will be located, Howe said. Each of the 24-hour library facilities would cost between $150,000 and $250,000, she said after the meeting.

n Also Monday night, the library board was shown figures from the 2013 annual report. The report, which is available starting today on the library’s website, showed there were more than 421,000 visitors to the library last year and 391,000 visits to the library’s website.

The library also hosted more than 1,700 events and allowed people to check out more than 745,000 materials, more than half of which were books, as opposed to DVDs, CDs or other items.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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