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Tentative plans for a 100,000-square-foot downtown library that will likely last longer than 50 years and will cost around $50 million were presented to the library board and interested public Tuesday.

In addition to space for books, the library will likely have an auditorium with seating for 250, places for people to use borrowed laptop computers or their own laptops, a café run by a private business, group study rooms and smaller tutoring rooms with glass walls for better supervision. It will also likely have makerspaces where people can use equipment -- like sophisticated printers,  or sewing machines -- that they may not be able to afford for their homes. It may even have an audio visual lab for making and editing videos.

Consultants from a Texas company that specializes in libraries and a local architectural firm talked about potential program spaces, from teen areas to music areas, during two meetings in Lincoln Tuesday, one for the library board and another for the public.

But they did not describe exactly what the building or the spaces will look like. 

That design will come later when the program statement is handed over to architects, said Dick Waters, of Godfrey’s Associates of Dallas. 

And the library board hasn't said where the new library will be built, though consultants said the Pershing building itself is not at the top of the list.

The library board, which met Tuesday morning in closed session to discuss real estate, will likely announce a site in the next two to three months, said Pat Leach, Lincoln City Libraries director.

The program statement is irrespective of a site. It can be applied to a site once it has been selected, said James Walbridge with the Lincoln office of HDR Inc.

The consultants expect the building will be around 100,000 square feet, a two- to three-story building that is about a third bigger than Bennett Martin Library, the current central library.

A library is open more hours than any other public service building, so it must be durable and high quality and it must be energy-efficient, said Brad Waters with Godfrey’s Associates.

"You never sacrifice quality for quantity," said Dick Waters. "You can always build more space. You cannot improve quality without major deconstruction. So quality is the best economy.”

"And if you don’t believe it, welcome to Bennett Martin,” said Brad Waters, about Lincoln’s current downtown library, where it was 90 degrees in the board room Tuesday morning, forcing board members to move to the auditorium.

One thing a library can do well is have the best children's program, said Dick Waters, who expects Lincoln will have a "knock your socks off space for children." 

Tuesday's meetings were part of a process that will eventually lead to design of the building and voter consideration of a bond that will use public funding for part of the cost.

With voter approval of a bond issue, the city could break ground on a new downtown library in late 2019, Dick Waters said.

On Tuesday, consultants offered specific ideas for a new downtown library based on the earlier feedback they received from Lincoln library users, businesses, teens, educators and staff.

After Tuesday’s meetings, the consultants will add details to the program statement -- everything from the number of chairs and kind of equipment in each area to the number of recharging stations that might be needed for motorized wheelchairs.

This thick book of details, which will be reviewed by the library board and the public in late May, sets the direction for design, said Brad Waters. The cost is already set at around $50 million, consultants said.

There was no discussion of parking because that will depend on where the new library will be built.

If you are going to have a library that is well used, you will have to have convenient parking, said Brad Waters. 

However, his father, Dick Waters, suggested driverless cars will become a reality, mitigating some of a library's parking needs. 

The new library will be built for a city that will grow to 456,000 people in the next 35 years, and with 1.3 million items in its systemwide collection, consultants said.

A new central library will not replace branches but will, in fact, create more library users overall in the long run, said Dick Waters.

“You will build more branch libraries in addition to a great, new central library,” he said.

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On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.



Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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