More than 50 people crowded into the Belleville Area District Library meeting room on Saturday morning to give their opinions on what a new library should look like, when and if it is approved by voters.
Architect Daniel Whisler said the sites for the main and the satellite libraries should be determined by the library board within in the next two months and then the concept designs should be done by December. That’s when a budget will be worked out and a price tag determined.
He said the public will be educated on the project over the next year, with a vote on millage for the new building planned for the November 2012 ballot.
Whisler said the timeline is subject to change.
A 2005 study showed for 50,000 people in the 72-square-mile area covered by Belleville, Van Buren, and Sumpter a 47,000 square foot library would be needed. This is four times the size of the current 11,150 square foot library now in place.
The Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments estimates that from 50,000 to 53,000 people will live in this area in 2035. The library will be planned to serve the local community for 20 years, Whisler said, but hopefully will be in service for 100 years.
He said an update to the 2005 study is part of the district library agreement between Belleville, Van Buren, and Sumpter. It calls for one large and one smaller library within the service district.
The agreement says if the main library is built north of Hull Road, the branch would be to the south. If the main library is located south of Hull, the satellite would be north of I-94.
The estimated sizes would be 43,000 square feet for the main library and 3,500 square feet for the satellite.
Whisler said Sumpter Township has 9.5 acres of land with the former health clinic it obtained from Wayne County and that is considered a good site. The present building is not suitable to bear the weight of books and so a new building could be constructed on the site.
But, he stressed, the sites are yet to be determined by the board. After the regular board meeting in April, the board went into closed-door session with its attorney and Whisler to consider property acquisition.
After a lively discussion on a library’s use now and in the future, Whisler and architect Seth Penchansky presented 153 slides of libraries throughout the world and asked those present to grade each slide on how much the person liked it and then how suitable it is for a library in Belleville. He said he would flash each slide just 20 seconds, but actually lingered on some.
The two architects are with the firm of Penchansky Whisler of Ann Arbor, which has been chosen by the board to design the new library.
Whisler said the slide exercise was to find out what Belleville likes. He made disparaging remarks on some library designs shown – “This is crazy stuff … They must have got a deal on tile…” — leading the public in its grading.
Barbara Miller asked from the audience, when the exercise was at about slide 53, if they couldn’t put it on the library web site so people could look at the buildings and make proper comments.
Whisler ignored her remark and continued with the slides. Miller left the meeting in frustration. One reporter from a local newspaper fell asleep in the darkened room during the exercise and a second reporter left the meeting.
The community forum lasted 35 minutes longer than the advertised noon closing time.
Members of the public commented on various things they would like to see in the new library, and one young man asked for things that could be done immediately, such as improved parking and opening the library on Sundays when most people don’t work and could use a library.
Library Director Deb Green said there were staffing problems and, “We can’t afford it.”
Whisler agreed that the days the library is open is an operating budget issue and all libraries would like to be open seven days a week.
Whisler said Belleville is a practical community and wants good value for its investment. He made that comment after several people said they would like to see a library design that is simple, yet functional, without a lot of fancy designs.
“I’m a minimalist,” agreed local architect George Craven, adding, “Too much is going on” in many of the slides that were shown.
Whisler said the design should embody the Belleville community, and members of the audience suggested the design should include the feeling of the lake, its farming community, automotive history, the Bomber Plant and forests, green grass and fields – a more traditional design.
Penchansky scratched his head when considering the Bomber Plant part of a design and Tom Fielder suggested they could put an old plane from the Yankee Air Museum on the lawn, or a model hanging from the ceiling in the children’s room.
Whisler suggested those with suggestions to give them to staff members at the library because this phase of the project is continuing. There will be other public meetings in the future as the library design is worked out, he said.