Ground soon to be broken on Kentwood library

March 23, 2009
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Construction of a new $8 million Kentwood Branch of the Kent District Library is slated to start this spring, with a grand opening planned for summer 2010.

The city has talked about building a larger library as far back as when former Mayor Gerald DeRuiter was still in office (1981-1982) through former Mayor Bill Hardiman’s tenure (1992-2002) and into Mayor Richard Root’s current tenure, noted Cheryl Cammenga, branch manager of the Kentwood library.

“At this point we have a pretty good idea of what the library is going to look like, and the city has gotten back some preliminary cost estimates just to make sure we’re staying within budget,” Cammenga said. “All of us that are working on the library building committee are really happy with how the design is playing out. We’re moving forward with finalizing the design, and the city commission will weigh in on the building’s exterior details.”

Kentwood voters approved a 0.35 millage last August to build the new facility and cover the cost of ongoing maintenance. The millage does not expire, said city Finance Director Tom Chase. Rather than passing a millage that was specifically associated with the library bond debt service, voters passed a millage that was intended to make the library self-sustaining after construction, Chase said.

“What happened was that the millage was adopted for library purposes without an expiration date in order to provide some money toward annual operating costs, but also to allow the accumulation of money so that, down the road, there would be money to replace things as they naturally wear out, and the library can be maintained in the manner that it should be,” Chase explained.

The new 43,000-square-foot library will be located south of 44th Street on Breton Avenue, just south of Kentwood City Hall. The current library is 15,000 square feet, which makes for a somewhat “hectic” library experience given the size of the community, Cammenga said. Space restrictions limit the number of public computers the library can offer for public use, so there’s always a waiting list, she noted. Since the new facility will have more than two and half times the space of the existing library, the Kentwood branch will be able to house 30 public computers compared to the 18 it has now.

Cammenga leads a staff of 21 at the library. The number might increase, but that is dependent on Kent District Library’s budget, she said. The library will have larger reading areas with windows overlooking the field behind City Hall and will feature comfortable seating and quiet areas — a “library living room,” as she calls it. The new facility also will have a children’s area and teen area, some self-check-in machines for books, a drive-up book drop, a computer lab that can be used for classes as well as presentations, small tutoring rooms, a 24-hour “book hold” pick-up service — and maybe a fireplace.

Cammenga said a fireplace is in the current plan but is budget dependent: If push comes to shove, the library will get rid of the fireplace before it gets rid of the book drop. She said staff also hopes to have some outdoor patio space that patrons can access so they can sit and read outside, but that feature is also dependent on the budget.   

The new library will include a community room that can seat up to 300 people or be divided into two spaces. It will be rigged with screens and projection equipment.

“The city of Kentwood is really looking forward to using the community room for various programs, as well as renting it to people,” Cammenga added.   

Cammenga said the Kentwood Branch typically serves between 800 and 1,000 visitors a day, which she said is typical for a library of its size in this community. She expects visitors will increase, particularly in the first year.

“Typically in the Kent District Library system, when we open a new branch, the circulation and visits increase about 30 percent in the first year and then kind of level off, but you continue to keep some of those customers,” she explained. “But because the library will be more spacious and pleasant to be in, a lot of people will just come in to hang out.” 

Post Associate Architects is the architect and Wolverine Building is general contractor.

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