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Library Books Expansion Plans

A Shuttle Van and a Renovation Are the Next Chapters
in the Carnegie-Stout Public Library Story

Eileen Moziski

May 28, 2006

And see Editorial, "Original Library a Treasure Worth Preserving"

[Note: This material is copyright by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.]

A community's library is a lot like the books it houses, opening its doors and pages to every age, gender, race and class. That is why Dubuque's Envision Committee believes investing in library services is vital for the city's future.

"It's part of our roots. When you think about where you come from, a library is almost core to every city," said Alan Avery, president of the Carnegie-Stout Public Library's Board of Trustees.

Renovating the library's historic section and expanding services to Dubuque's West End are on the Envision 2010 list of 10 area projects to be completed in the next five years.

There's been progress on both fronts. The library board proposed a $5.3 million renovation project to the city in late March and the library has obtained money for a van to start services to the West End.

Much of the committee's discussion at its recent meeting focused on the need to serve growing populations in Asbury, Iowa, and Dubuque's West End; responding to a survey in which 95 percent of respondents asked for expanded library services.

"That's the urgency of all this. We have all kinds of people that need library services," said Donna Bauerly, chairperson of the Envision committee.

Getting services to the west side of the city moved closer to reality last week when the library secured a $9,000 DRA grant, along with funding from the city of Dubuque and the Carnegie-Stout Foundation, to purchase a shuttle van.

"It's not much, but we're starting," said Library Director Susan Henricks.

The vehicle will start with pickups at a drop box at Roosevelt Middle School.

"If the overall response is huge, that is going to send a strong message," Avery said.

Promoting the extensive renovation of the downtown facility also is high on the committee's agenda.

The $5.3 million proposal would upgrade the facility's technology and preserve much of the building's historic architecture, like the grand entrance Bauerly remembers from her childhood.

"I have wonderful memories of walking up those granite steps, totally in awe of being in a grand place," she said.

Preserving a building that has received state recognition for its history and architecture is critical to the success of Envision.

"If we don't leverage that, shame on us," Avery said.

The complexity of carrying out the Envision mission is amplified by the challenge of coordinating all the groups involved: cities, citizens and committees.

"What we talk about in Envision is not necessarily a board opinion," said Henricks, who is pleased with people's efforts to think outside their traditional roles.

"We're all coming with a different perspective and all maybe wanting something different out of the process," said Becky Heil, director of the Dubuque County Library in Epworth, Iowa.

Getting the groups to work together is key.

"If we can create relationships, every one of those groups doesn't need to be putting up brick and mortar," said Avery, who is pushing for more citizen involvement.

The project is also facing a host of development options like the possibility of joining forces with other cities, counties or schools.

"There's a lot of possibilities and right now some of them might sound kind of far out, but that's how you get things going," Henricks said.

Yet behind every scenario lurks the question of funding.

"That's our challenge, we don't have the dollars," she said.

It's another area where community input will help, Avery said. The group needs to know what taxpayers might be willing to fund, he said, if there isn't enough in legislative funding and grants for renovation and expanding services.

"Our goal is to start doing something a year from now. We want to start building because we've been talking about this forever," Avery said.

Having a solidified plan by fall and construction started in 2008 both seem realistic.

"We're very fortunate in our city to have (a library that is) a gem," he said. "We really want to polish it up, not only for tourists, but for us."

Original Library a Treasure Worth Preserving

City Government and Private Donors Should Share Renovatio Expense


May 28, 2006

People older than 35 who grew up in Dubuque should remember climbing the concrete steps outside Carnegie-Stout Public Library. Inside, it was a spiraling jaunt down the marble stairs to the children's section.

Now a community effort is afoot to restore the library to its former glory. The historic front entrance will be returned to use. Two original skylights and a double row of exterior windows will be uncovered to fill the old section with natural light. The original stairway, which now stops at the second floor, will once again reach the lower level.

Undoubtedly, this structure has a history worth preserving. The big question is how to pay for it.

The newer section of Carnegie-Stout has served the community for 25 years. It is modern, accessible, orderly - and nondescript. When it was completed in 1981, the addition was all about organization and functionality. It serves that purpose. But it lacks the majesty of the old library.

As the years have passed, citizens have begun to see that the original part of the library is a jewel in Dubuque's architectural crown. With this community restoration effort, the structure could once again be at full use and purpose.

It won't come cheaply; preserving history seldom does. Renovating the century-old building will likely cost more than $5 million. Library trustees hope to pull it off without asking taxpayers for a tax increase.

But the money needs to come from somewhere. And users should be a part of the funding equation. So should the city of Dubuque. After all, this is a project citizens want. A 2004 survey showed strong support for library expansion. And it made the Top 10 of Envision 2010 projects the community should complete in the next five years. People's expectations are clear.

A public library is a vital part of a community's quality of life - and Carnegie-Stout is a vital part of Dubuque's civic and architectural history. Its restoration deserves a community effort.
Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board: Jim Normandin (Publisher), Brian Cooper, Ken Brown, Monty Gilles, Amy Gilligan and Sharon Welborn. Additional note: Gilligan's spouse, Michael Shubatt, is a member of the Carnegie-Stout board and formerly served on the Envision selection committee.