I have lived in Allen County for just less than a year. What inspired me to move here is something I continue to find true each day: Allen County loves its libraries.
They love the books, the programs, the access to technology and meeting spaces, and the friendly staff. They cherish what ACPL does and what it represents. They take pride in ACPL and want to see it thrive.
Our ACPL buildings are well used and well loved, visited by millions each year and used six or seven days a week. We want to make sure they continue to meet the needs of our patrons for today and for future generations.
With Allen County ranking in the top 25% of metro areas, we need to ensure our buildings are keeping up and responding to community growth. A recent article in the Washington Post said: “Communities that invest in libraries are well prepared for whatever the next chapter brings.” We want to be prepared for that next chapter in Allen County.
Our Facility Master Plan process started in 2021 with the goal of having the right buildings, of the right size, in the right locations to best serve all of Allen County.
Our consultants from Bostwick Design Partnership visited every ACPL building to assess its condition and hear from the staff who work there. Staff and patrons participated in visioning sessions to imagine their dream library. We conducted surveys of staff and patrons, and we held multiple focus groups with key community stakeholders.
The research and data-gathering of 2021 informed the draft Facility Master Plan unveiled this month. In the plan, our consultants offer their findings and recommendations. The initial recommendations include a Plan A and Plan B, and depending on the library the options range from medium to heavy renovation, expansion of existing facilities, replacing and relocating branches with new, larger buildings, or building a new library to serve the rapidly growing northwest area.
Both plans increase the overall branch square footage throughout the system.
Plans A and B are meant to start a community conversation about the direction of ACPL, and help us chart a road map for the future. Nothing has been decided or finalized. The ultimate result, shaped by the feedback we receive, may look different than what has been initially proposed. This is a project that would require public support, and therefore must be informed by public input. The community is at the heart and center of our Facility Master Plan.
We have already begun engaging with the community about the options. Some frequently asked questions we are hearing:
1) How much will this affect my property taxes? How would this project be funded?
Given the cost estimates of the options being considered, ACPL would need to seek financing through the issuance of bonds that will require voter approval through a referendum.
Once the plan has been finalized, ACPL will be able to provide an estimate of how this would affect individual property owners. Because of the strong fiscal responsibility and stewardship of our Board of Trustees, ACPL has an estimated $21 million in reserves to contribute toward the project. In 2021, the bonds from our previous building projects in the early 2000s were paid off; ACPL is debt free.
2) Can the final plan be a combination of options from Plan A and Plan B?
Yes, absolutely. These options are intended to spark discussion and lead to creative solutions. We would love to hear your thoughts on possible options.
3) How long will my library branch be closed while it is under construction? I do not want to be without my library.
We completely understand and appreciate this concern; we want everyone to have convenient access to their branch library. Our goal would be to continue service out of the existing branch while a new branch was being constructed. We would sequence the building projects to minimize inconvenience and prevent disruptions in service.
4) Why are you proposing to close and/or relocate some branches?
We would not propose to close/relocate a branch to reduce service. Rather it would be because the building had limitations such as condition or location that prevent us from providing what the community deserves, and we want to provide something bigger and better. Both Plans A and B actually expand the amount of overall branch square footage throughout ACPL while still operating 14 locations. It is also important to state that replacing or relocating a branch would not result in the loss of staff positions. We have talented people who work at ACPL, and their experience is valued.
5) How do we best ensure that residents of the southeast area have access to library buildings?
ACPL is committed to providing equitable library services throughout the county. Both Options A and B show investment in the southeast and would increase the total amount of library square footage in the area.
6) If you relocate a branch, how would you determine where to put it?
Any decision to relocate a branch would be made in consultation with the neighborhoods it serves. Site selection would be based on a number of criteria including walkability, public transit options, proximity to schools, bike routes, and accessible parking. These are decisions ACPL would make hand in hand with the community.
Our work is just getting started. We are asking the community to help us answer some big and challenging questions that will shape the future of ACPL. We do not take this lightly. The decisions we make together will change lives and affect future generations. We want to get it right.
There are numerous opportunities for you to join this conversation. YourACPL.org is the information hub for the Facility Master Plan process. On the site you will find a link to our survey, available in English and Spanish. Please take a few minutes to complete it and share your thoughts. We are also holding five open houses at library locations across Allen County. These events will provide the opportunity for you to review the plan and talk with library leadership and branch staff. Details and registration links are available on YourACPL.org. The site also includes Frequently Asked Questions, which will be updated on a regular basis.
Do you have questions, concerns or thoughts on alternative options? You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as members of the Board of Trustees at email@example.com.
Allen County residents love their library system, and they have supported it generously throughout the years. We ask you to join us in writing your library's next chapter.
Susan Baier is executive director of the Allen County Public Library.
To learn more
You can see the recommendations for each Allen County Public Library branch at youracpl.org/branch-updates/. The entire plan can also be found at acpl.info.
Open houses are scheduled to discuss the library’s facility master plan. Registration links for each event are on YourACPL.org.
6-8 p.m. Jan. 24 at Georgetown: This open house will focus on recommendations for the Georgetown, Tecumseh and New Haven branches.
6-8 p.m. Jan. 31 at Aboite: This open house will focus on recommendations for the Aboite and Waynedale branches.
6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at Grabill: This open house will focus on recommendations for the Grabill, Monroeville and Woodburn branches.
10 a.m.-noon Feb. 5 at Dupont: This open house will focus on recommendations for the Dupont, Grabill and Little Turtle branches.
6-8 p.m. Feb. 9 at Shawnee: This open house will focus on recommendations for the Shawnee, Hessen Cassel and Pontiac branches.