There are probably still more questions than answers about plans for a new Lewes Public Library. What will it look like? How much will it cost? Will it have fewer real books than ebooks? What’s the old library building going to be used for?
Candace Vessella, Friends of Lewes Public Library president, answered these questions and others in a March 8 presentation to Overfalls Foundation members at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Parrish Hall in Lewes. About 40 people attended the event.
“This is a complex project,” Vessella said, showing a partial list of those involved including Lewes Public Library Board, City of Lewes, Lewes Board of Public Works, Becker Morgan Group, architects and engineers, Greater Lewes Foundation, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Department of Transportation.
Vessella said the new library would cost about $9 million, and its earliest completion would be in 2015. She said the cost is an estimate Dover-based Becker Morgan Group until building design details are clearly defined. They have extensive experience with this type of project,” Vessella said. She said a panel of library patrons would be appointed by the library’s board of directors to form a design committee that will work with architects and provide recommendations on the building’s interior and exterior appearance.
The committee will meet with the public to hear feedback on developing designs.
“People will be able to say ‘I like this, I don’t like this, I like that,’” Vessella said. She said when the choice is down to design A or B and most patrons select A, it would be the design used.
Although the library’s board of directors has final say, it is likely to approve the design most favored by the public, Vessella said.
Paying for the library
The City of Lewes borrowed $2.15 million from the Lewes Board of Public Works to purchase the 5.5-acre site for the new building.
The city plans to repay the board over a 24-month period using proceeds from the sale of three Burton Avenue residential lots it owns.
Lewes Mayor Jim Ford said the city would also look into other financing options such as a line of credit or short-term loan.
He said additional money could come from a variety of public and private sources including the Delaware Division of Libraries, Lewes Public Library, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and private donations.
The Delaware Department of Transportation has expressed interest in developing a trailhead at the library site. The combined-use site might be called the Lewes Gateway Project.
With the library at its core, the gateway would be a multipurpose amenity featuring connections to the adjacent Lewes-Georgetown Rail/Trail and nearby Junction and Breakwater Trail.
The project would also include shared parking space; comfort stations; and a connection hub for shuttles and public, private and jitney transportation.
Vessella said the new building would be owned by the library and would sit on land owned by the city.
The state will pay 50 percent of land acquisition and building costs, and the Lewes Public Library Board, assisted by the Greater Lewes Foundation, will mount a fundraising campaign, apply for grants and explore loan options to come up with the balance.
Into the future
“We serve very highly educated people,” Vessella said, speaking about approximately 17,000 library users now living in Lewes’ library service area.
“The number will grow to more than 27,000 by 2020,” she said.
“We are a community of avid readers, and we enjoy taking advantage of the state’s entire collection,” Vessella said.
By request, patrons use the state’s Interlibrary Loan service to borrow books not available in a local library. The service delivers books to the local branch at no charge.
The library already offers a variety of programs – computer basics, storytime for children, conversational Spanish, meditative art – and in a new and expanded facility, the number of programs would grow.
The new building must have space for paperbound items still in use today that could easily be converted to accommodate computers or as yet unknown technologies of tomorrow.
The new library would also have meeting rooms and would feature areas where people would be able to do what comes naturally – socialize and have human-to-human contact.
Vessella said the project requires public input to ensure the final product reflects the community it will serve.
“Speak to friends and neighbors and invite them to come to presentations and learn more about the project,” Vessella said.
She said there would be a presentation next month, but the time, date and location have not yet been set.
For additional information about Lewes Public Library plans, visit the library or go to www.leweslibrary.org.
Today’s Lewes library takes a look forward
Lewes Public Library has 53,000 items on site and access to 2.5 million items through other public libraries in Delaware.
The library subscribes to 75 magazines and newspapers and also has a selection of audio books and an ever-growing ebook collection.
In addition to the library’s 18 internet-connected desktop computers, the facility is Wi-Fi-equipped and capable of providing an internet connection to compatible portable devices.
One of the new library’s critical design questions will be how to integrate rapidly changing computer technologies with paper-based materials still in use.
The existing facility’s Delaware Room is where history lives. It features a historic book collection, documents for ancestry research and works by Delaware artists and writers.
Because of the lack of space, much of the library’s historic material is in storage. The new library would feature a larger Delaware Room that would make items now stored available to the public.
Volunteers are the library’s lifeblood. They work at the front desk and behind the scenes, preparing books coming and going through the Interlibrary Loan service, cataloging new books for circulation and shelving returned books. The expanded library will continue to need volunteers – more than it currently has.
Friends of Lewes Public Library is a nonprofit group supporting library services by organizing and sponsoring various projects.
Friends raise money through an annual membership drive, two annual book sales and by producing and selling items such as last year’s “Cooking with Lewes Friends,” a cookbook featuring recipes contributed by local residents.
A day in the life of Lewes Public Library
• 500 people visit
• 580 items are checked out
• 55 patrons use computers
• 2 programs are held
• 1 meeting is hosted