City Council discusses library improvements, accessibility

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man using computer at library

Haley Sinclair

Residents of all ages benefit from one of CADL Mason Public Library valuable resources, computers. A renovation of the computer area is considered in Phase One of the capital improvement program.

The Mason City Council and planning commission discussed possible renovations to the Capital Area District Library of Mason for 2019-2020 during their joint capital improvement program workshop.

Phase One of the renovation plan is to make the library more accessible and improve safety. The project includes a new front ramp and handicap accessible bathrooms, one of which will be open to the public even when the library is closed. The front entry alcove will include a bathroom to the left, which would be accessible through an unlocked exterior door.

The service desk will be relocated due to safety concerns. Further improvements include a new staff area, computer area, improved multi-use area in front of an anticipated working fireplace. A new kitchen will be used as a prep space for events and will be the staff’s kitchen.

Moving the service desk will redirect sight lights to different areas within the library, which was determined to be important to the staff. 

“If you are coming in the accessible entrance you have to go behind people who are working and then you have to duck into the building, which is very difficult to maneuver for accessibility reasons,” said City Manager Deborah Stuart. “It’s also a safety and security issue.”

With about 84,000 visitors per year, accessibility has been an issue for handicapped individuals. This topic has been on agenda for a while.

“I just feel like 1,100 extra square feet, we’re still going to outgrow that,” said Council Member Rita Vogel. “We’re thinking 10, 20 years. We’re still gonna outgrow these things.” 

Phase two of the improvement adds an elevator to provide accessibility to the basement and upper level.

“This is a real concern that CADL has, and we do as well, in that the services provided in both the lower and upper floors that currently you cannot get access to if you are in a wheelchair or even if you have strollers. It’s a challenge.” said Stuart. 

Phase two will transform the current children’s area into an adult reading section. The design will feature an elevator shaft that is not too visible within the layout of the floor plan. There will also be a second entrance in front of the elevator to access that area. 

Building an addition onto the front of the garage would provide space that could be the teen area or the bookstore.

Phase three focused on improvements to the basement and upper levels.

“The lower level would unlock a lot of space in the basement. It would allow for there to be gallery space.” said Stuart.

The third phase will add an accessible bathroom to the basement and activity rooms. 

CADL will not share in the cost of structural improvements. The only funding it will provide is for improvements such as the service desk and built-in book-shelves.

“That’s part of our agreement with them that we’ll pay for the facility portion and they’ll pay for furnishing, ”said Stuart.

CADL is paying operations staff at the Mason branch.

City Council obtained an estimate on a new building with similar square footage.

“The options are to renovate this building, provide a different building or decide that we don’t want one anymore. These are all discussions that we can have, but at the end of the day this is their model,” said Stuart.

City Council expressed concerns about investing too much into this project due to the deed restriction that is tied to the property.

“The deed restriction currently requires operation of a library in that facility, so the moment that doesn’t happen the property reverts to the county,” said Stuart. “Then the county— if they can’t successfully operate it— then they have to divert it to the school district, then the school district is the only one that can remove the deed restriction.”


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