Lewes updated on library progress

New building to cost about $10.5 million
Lewes Mayor City Council was updated on the progress of the new Lewes Public Library. BY NICK ROTH
April 18, 2014

Planners say the new Lewes Public Library will be a state-of-the-art facility with an eye on the future.

Residents and city council members were updated April 7 on the progress of the new library. Campaign Chairman Dennis Forney said the library board is working out logistics with state and local agencies to fund the project while also developing its design. The state is simultaneously coordinating an effort to construct a new trail head and outdoor restroom facility in the same area.

“We've spent two years looking at this very, very carefully,” Forney said.

In late 2013, the City of Lewes purchased a 5.9-acre parcel between Stango Park and Freeman Highway known as the Thompson property for $2.5 million. The city aided with the purchase by selling its own land on Burton Avenue for a little more than $1 million.

Building the new library will cost an estimated $10.5 million, with an additional $3 million for the new trailhead and restroom facilities.

The state will contribute about $5 million, Forney said, with another $3.6 million coming from a public fundraising campaign and $2 million more from other private sources. Forney asked city council to consider a contribution in the future, and tossed out the figure of about $1 million.

Mayor Jim Ford said it was premature to commit to the project.

“There are a lot of factors right now that are very fluid in the project – that's not to be surprising,” he said. “As time moves forward and things get nailed down a bit more, then the city might have an opportunity to say 'OK, here's where we are and here's where we'd like to be.'”

Ford said unknowns include the fate of the current library building, the ownership of the new building and any costs the city may incur related to the new trailhead and park space.

Some residents in attendance questioned the need for a new library. Library Director Ed Goyda said a number of factors necessitate a new building, chief among them is more space for meetings. Over the last decade, he said, the number of programs offered at the library has increased from 12 programs to 700.

As the population of Lewes and the surrounding area increases, he said, the demand for books and services is expected to rise. While it is not surprising to see e-book use increasing 100 percent annually as more people transition to iPads and Kindles, he said, it may surprise some people to learn that use of traditional hard-back books is also increasing – though more slowly at 3 percent.

The library has about 50,000 books now, Goyda said, putting it over capacity. The plan is to have enough shelving space in the new building for up to 75,000 books, he said.

The new facility will provide ample space for computer training, open desks for those using their own laptops and much needed administrative space. The board is also cognizant of the ever changing landscape of technology, he said.

“The day before the iPad was invented, nobody knew it would exist,” said Goyda. “The building is designed to be flexible … and we'll be ready for whatever is invented tomorrow.”

A community presentation will be held at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 22, at the library. The public will learn about the project and how the board will ensure the library will serve Lewes for the next 50 years.