A task force created to help Rehoboth Beach library officials navigate the transition to a two-location operation met for the first time May 24. The hour-long meeting allowed members to introduce themselves and gather information on the need for a second, larger facility outside city limits.
While there have been a few locations, the library has served its users exclusively downtown for nearly 100 years. That’s going to change, because earlier this year library officials announced they plan to build a new facility on Warrington Road outside the city to better meet the needs of the entire service area.
At the request of city commissioners and concerned citizens, a task force was created. After a weeks-long solicitation period, the 20-member group was formed.
The role is to recommend the types of programs and services that should be at both locations, said Patricia Anderson of Lewes-based Horizon Philanthropic Services, a library consultant.
The group comprises a wide range of library users – long- and short-term owners in downtown; people who live in the area near the new location; business owners; and representatives of local organizations. Reasons given for wanting to be on the task force included making sure services downtown continue to meet the needs of those users; making sure services meet the needs of users at the new facility; a general interest in creating a new facility that will be used by future generations; a lifelong love of libraries and books; and making sure the library serves a diverse population.
Anderson led the discussion on the need for the new facility, while library board Vice President Kay Wheatley answered questions spurred by Anderson’s presentation.
The Warrington Road location will meet the needs of a fast-growing population, will have more meeting space and programs, and will help with in-season issues related to parking and traffic, said Anderson. There are about 32,500 people living within three miles of the new facility, with about another 23,500 living within six miles, she said, adding that the figures don’t include dozens of developments in the pipeline.
Individuals were interested in funding. Wheatley said funding includes a combination of money from the American Rescue Plan Act, the state’s Bond Bill, foundations, individuals and businesses. It’s still too early for an estimated cost of the building because the exact size is unknown, but it costs roughly $800 per square foot for a new library to be built, she said.
There were questions about the existing library and future land-use restrictions. The library sits on three lots, with the one closest to Summer House donated by the city with a deed restriction requiring the land to be used as a library, said Wheatley.
Looking forward, the task force is expected to meet every other Wednesday through July 12. After that, there will be at least a three-month break while the library’s architect, Becker Morgan Group, drafts schematics. Anderson said the group will reconvene sometime in October to look over concepts and finalize recommendations to the library.
Anderson laid out the plan for the pre-break meetings this summer: At the June 7 meeting, there will be an expert panel discussion that includes representatives from other libraries that recently went through new builds; at the June 21 meeting, there will be a discussion about what services should be at each location; at the July 12 meeting, the expectation is that the task force will make recommendations.
Wheatley reminded everyone that while services and programs are important, part of the equation is being able to staff each location appropriately.