Plans unveiled for Whitewater library expansion

It will add nearly 7,000 square feet Irvin L. Young Memorial Library

By Dave Fidlin


The long-running discussion of expanding Whitewater’s Irvin L. Young Memorial Library could come to fruition in 2023 — two decades after the project was first discussed — based on a recently unveiled set of plans.

Members of the city’s Library Board went before the Common Council on Aug. 17 and gave a presentation on the latest iteration of plans, which would expand the venue by 6,928 square feet, from the current layout of 14,146 square feet to 18,606 square feet.

The latest sets of plans come on the heels of prior efforts that have surfaced at various points since an earnest discussion of expanding the library first occurred in 2003.

Early on, there had been talks of adding a second floor onto the facility, though the proposal ultimately was deemed untenable because of the hefty $11 million price tag. More recently, a proposal of a public-private partnership associated with the library site had taken place, though it ultimately fizzled.

The latest sets of plans call for a more scaled down approach that officials say focuses on modern library patrons’ desires, while dually holding true to many of the core traditional offerings.

The expansion, which carries an estimated $5.05 million price tag, would occur at the portion of the library facing Church and Center streets. An adjacent outdoor public space also is included in the plans and could host such community events as farmers’ markets, concerts and art shows.

Speaking to the council at the Aug. 17 meeting, Library Board President Anne Hartwick said, “A lot of hard work has brought us before you tonight, and we know we have a lot more hard work ahead of us.”

A key lynchpin for the expansion project’s timeline is funding. The city has committed $3 million in municipal funds to the project, resulting in a $2.05 million gap to see the effort to the finish line.

At the meeting, Library Director Stacey Lunsford laid out the tentative timeline that is in place for the work. The expansion project, she said, is included in the library’s capital improvement plan for 2023.

“In 2022, we expect to raise the $2 million,” Lunsford said. “I’m really excited about this. I think this is the most viable plan we’ve ever presented. It provides all of the things that the community has asked for, repeatedly.”

Library Board member Jim Winship, who chairs the Expansion Committee, narrowed the projected fundraising figure down even further to $1.4 million, citing other revenue streams that can help fill a portion of the gap.

“We feel that the project is good enough, and the community is responsive enough,” Winship, a former member of the Common Council, said.

If all goes as planned, the expansion also would result in changes to the existing layout. The front entrance lobby area, for example, is envisioned as a site dubbed “Discover” that would spotlight events taking place on any given day.

On a deeper level, Winship said he sees value in bringing the library expansion project to completion.

“With the expansion, more children will come to the library, learn from the programs and leave with books,” Winship said. “In households in which there aren’t many books, this is really critical.”

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