The long road to a possible expansion and renovation of the Rhinelander District Library begins today with an organizational meeting for a building committee that will spearhead the process going forward.
The process will begin with interviews of the prospective architects for the project. Monday, a small group of library board members and library director Ed Hughes met to conduct an initial review of the eight architects who recently submitted materials in order to be considered for the project.
Board president Jan Baer said Monday's gathering resulted in a list of five architects that will be recommended to the building committee that will be formed today. The committee's first task will be setting up interviews with each of those architects. It will not be quick process, Baer noted.
"It's going to be a slow process and we want it to be a slow process," Baer said. "We want to do it right."
Baer projects it could be a couple of months before the building committee is finished with its review of the architects.
On the agenda for today's meeting, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the library meeting room, is a discussion about the timetable for future meetings and the interviewing of architect candidates. Also on the agenda is official appointments to the building committee as well as discussion about subcommittees that will have to be formed. Baer said she thinks there will have to be several smaller groups that branch off of the core building committee since an expansion and renovation project is no small undertaking.
"There will be many aspects to it," Baer said. "We need to be fundraising. We need a final building plan. We need people with expertise in various areas."
Baer notes that today's organizational meeting is just the first concrete step in what will be a lengthy journey to seeing a library building expansion become reality.
"It's a big process," Baer said. "And it all hinges on the economic situation in the community. There are a lot of things going on but we really can't wait any longer to get started on the process."
A key part in how quickly an expansion plan develops is the success of fundraising efforts and Baer said that will be a point of emphasis during the upcoming architect interview process.
"Those we interview will have to understand we have to raise funds. Any firm that gets involved in this has to understand that," Baer said.
The last major renovation at the library occurred in 1985 when a 10,000 square foot addition was built onto the original 5,000 square foot library constructed in 1903. But with a larger service area, increased usage, and changes in technology, the current space is no longer working for the library.
Last year, the library board made changes to how the current space is being used. However, it didn't accomplish the board's true goal: opening up more space to the public, particularly the original 1903 portion of the building. The board determined that more efficient use of the space helped, but what is truly needed is simply more space. The current proposal calls for adding another 12,000 square feet to the library.
Though plenty of work remains ahead, Baer said it's exciting to finally be taking the first steps toward a library renovation.
"I think we've been looking forward to this part for a couple of years now," Baer said. "We hope it's the start of something really good for the community."
Kyle Rogers may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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