By Crystal Burns
In a room filled with colorful storybooks written and illustrated with a child’s imagination in mind, Jev Vaughn, architect/owner, and Carin Jeffords, interiors, of Vaughn Associates Architects, Inc., helped Gibson County Memorial Library (GCML) employees, board members, and supporters pretend.
Vaughn and Jeffords spread the first drawings of a new library on the table in the Children’s Room and encouraged the small group to dream about what the new facility could provide patrons and the community.
“For today, it’s pretending,” Vaughn said.
The library is currently a 5,200-sq. ft. building located at 303 South High Street in Trenton. The state standard for libraries is 11,115 sq. ft. One of three public libraries in the county, GCML has the largest service area, which includes Trenton, Bradford, Dyer, Rutherford, Yorkville, Kenton, and Spring Hill. All county residents are welcome to patronize GCML.
In 2018, the GCML Friends of the Library contracted with Anders Dahlgren of Library Planning Associates for a comprehensive needs study, which the internationally recognized library consultant presented to stakeholders in February 2019. Dahlgren’s study showed that the GCML needs an estimated 21,600 sq. ft. to properly house its collections of books, DVDs, computer terminals and more while offering vital programs for children and adults.
Just shy of a year later, on Jan. 29, Dahlgren joined the architect and a small group of GCML stakeholders for the final site visit of his contract.
“I can’t even start to describe the feeling of seeing possible floorplans for the new library,” GCML Director Lindsey Ingram said.
Ingram, the former children’s librarian, said the dreams of a new facility began in 2012. When she took over as director in 2016, she began working to turn the dream into a reality and has met some pushback along the way.
“However, from the beginning, there have been those supporters who have dedicated their time and efforts into seeing a new building materialize,” Ingram said. “Once word got out about our needs and more people started to understand what libraries actually do now, we’ve seen interest in a new library grow as citizens realize how important a larger, more modern facility would be to our county.”
During his February 2019 site visit, Dahlgren told county leaders today’s libraries are about engagement and exchange.
“The library we grew up with was about static storage,” he said.
“The programs and services that our patrons need have changed, and the library is changing with them,” Ingram said.
While Vaughn and Jeffords repeatedly reminded those present Jan. 29 that they are only just beginning the process, they presented four options ranging from 21,896 sq. ft. to 23,455 sq. ft. Potential features include a large meeting room that could be accessible for after-hours use and a drive-thru for picking up and dropping off checked out items.
All of the plans are similar. One of the biggest questions initially facing the GCML Board is public parking. Another is if construction should be done in two phases.
The City of Trenton gave the GCML a half acre lot located adjacent to the library on West 2nd Street for expansion. Vaughn’s drawings showed how much of a new facility could be constructed in the first phase before tearing down the current library to finish the second phase.
“Although we are unsure of an estimated building cost, we do know that it will be less expensive to build in one phase,” Ingram said. “The big question is how to make that happen while continuing to keep the library up and running.”
Answers to that question and others won’t be immediately answered as the architects go back to the drawing board with Ingram’s notes on the pros and cons of the first renderings. Meanwhile, the GCML Foundation continues to raise money for the new facility, and leaders expect to garner more financial support once the final plan is unveiled.
“Seeing the plans made me a little nervous,” Ingram admitted. “It made everything more real. All of this work for a new building and more space for programming is for every resident of Gibson County, to provide them with program opportunities that they would never have access to otherwise.”