The need for improvements at the Redmond Library is soon be overdue, according to a recent report.

A recommendation to nearly double the square footage the almost 90-year-old building has was part of a recently released capital plan for Deschutes Public Library that was put together by consulting firms. The plan by Group 4 Architecture Research and Planning Inc. of South San Francisco and ACC Cost Consultants LLC of Tigard calls for the district to increase its library space by up to two thirds.

“We know we need to double in size, we’re not sure how to do it,” said Todd Dunkelberg, director of the library system.

Consultants told the district that a “high end” cost for the new library is around $31 million, Dunkelberg said.

“Basically, that takes in every contingency that might pop up,” he said.

The former Jessie Hill Elementary School building, which was built in 1929, expanded to 21,200 square feet when it was converted to Redmond’s library in 1996. While the building is in “reasonably good” condition for its age, the report says the city’s growing population means it will need a facility at least twice the existing library’s size. The district is already budgeting more than $1 million for maintenance needs at the building over the next five years, including new solar panels, heating and air conditioning components and replacement siding.

It appears the existing building is unlikely to support a doubling in size without compromises in service and operations, the report said. It recommends replacing the library with a new, modern building, likely two stories, on the current site or a new one.

“The next step is to figure out, can we do something with this site or not?” Dunkelberg said.

The current location is the best the library could ask for, Dunkelberg said. It is part of Redmond’s civic plaza, caddy corner from the new City Hall and across SW Deschutes Avenue from a new portion of Centennial Park, which recently broke ground. The expanded park will include a reading garden that ties into the library.

“That makes it a nice place for all the people in Redmond to go to, one stop and get all the amenities they need,” he said.

While the current library is not on historic registries, the library district wants to avoid potentially damaging it in an expansion, Dunkelberg said.

The lot the library sits on has room for additional building space, a larger building would require the library to expand its parking footprint, Dunkelberg said.

Needed features

Perhaps the primary reason to expand the library is so Redmond can have a larger children’s discovery area, which are becoming key parts of modern libraries, Dunkelberg said.

“It looks like a play area, but everything in here is designed to build pre-reading skills,” Dunkelberg said.

The current early learning area takes up a portion of the library’s central space near the check-out.

“We’ve been able to do this at a much smaller scape across the county,” Dunkelberg said. “We’re constricted by space.”

Another need is for enclosed study areas — multiple small rooms or cubicles where individuals or small groups can study or collaborate. Dunkelberg said Redmond also needs a larger meeting room. Some programs at the library have to be held in the central space because the meeting space is limited.

“We have one of the smallest meeting rooms in the county here,” he said.

The library needs larger space for its collections, both to hold more books and to give more seating areas, as well as flexible space for creative purposes like 3-D printing and quilting circles, Dunkelberg said.

The need for computers in the library has increased from when it had two public computers when it opened. Dunkelberg said the 18 it has now is a good number, but they could be fit into the building better.

The library has between 50,000 and 60,000 books, Dunkelberg said. While Redmond’s population approaches 30,000 people, the library was built for a city of 12,000.

Zach Dehnert, 32, an information technology worker who volunteers with the Redmond Library’s computer lab, would love to see the facility expand. He said he visits the library and may find seven of 10 Tom Clancy books he is looking for. He’d like to be able to get the other three.

“As a patron, I’m looking for more variety of books,” he said.

Dehnert would like to see more space for activities like workshops and classes.

“It’s a huge place for gatherings,” he said.

Finding money

The library district will seek partnerships, grants and donations, but could go out for a county-wide bond election to fund expansion in 2020, Dunkelberg said. A decision on what to do is expected by fall of 2019.

“When we became a district in 1999, we made a priority to not come back to voters for 10 years, we managed to keep that promise and add another 10 years onto it,” Dunkelberg said. “But we are looking to manage incredibly rapid growth across the county and, especially, in Redmond.”

The report warns against building a second library branch in Redmond. Dunkelberg said a second library isn’t feasible because that would require too many more staff members and other building costs. The Redmond Library now has 14 full and part-time employees.

“The more facilities you have, the cost goes up,” Dunkelberg said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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