The Rock Island Library board needs a $12 million commitment from the City Council to proceed with its plans for the future.
In March, the library board adopted a plan to move the library's central location to what is now the Tri-City Jewish Center and to downsize, but retain, the current historic downtown location. The plan also would retain the Southwest Branch at 9010 Ridgewood Ave., and would close and sell the 30/31 Branch at 3059 30th St., which is just two blocks from the Jewish Center.
But any move forward is contingent on the council's support.
Earlier this month, library director Angela Campbell explained the plan to city council members during a study session. She hopes to make a formal request to the council for a vote in January.
She readily admits that the timing is bad.
With declining revenues and rising expenses, the city's budget is tight. The 2018 budget proposal presented by staff on Monday night calls for a property tax increase and several fee increases.
The $12 million the library is asking for wouldn't have to start being paid until 2020, and it wouldn't have to be in one lump. What the library needs is a commitment so that it can proceed on other fronts — explore the closing and sale of the 30/31 branch, negotiate a purchase of the Jewish Center, begin applying for grants and approach donors with a concrete plan, Campbell said.
"We have a really great opportunity," she said, referring to the availability of the Jewish Center. "Everything is perfect except for the timing."
The reason Jewish leaders are willing to part with their building is that it has become too big and is no longer centrally located for its changing congregation.
City Administrator Randy Tweet said that all of the city's aldermen "have told me they support the library. Where they stand on this specific proposal, I can't tell you."
The overall cost of the library's plan is $15.64 million, not counting actual purchase of the Jewish Center, 2175 30th St. But Campbell said she is confident that even with purchase, the project would come in at under $20 million.
The $12 million from the city would be paid out over time, beginning in 2020, under the most optimistic timeline.
Other fundraising would come from the library foundation which already has secured a lead gift of nearly $1 million and has a goal of raising $4 million through a capital campaign and grant requests.
Another $2 million would come from smaller donors in the community at large.
Here is a closer look at the plan:
• Buy and repurpose the Jewish Center. The repurposing is estimated at $6.29 million. This would include a designated area for teens, outdoor space, meeting rooms, ample parking with a covered entryway and a café.
• Make needed infrastructure improvements and rearrange space in the downtown location, for $4.65 million. Of that, between $2 million and $3 million would be for new windows, energy-efficient lighting, wiring for the computer age and a new heating/ventilation/air conditioning system.
As for rearranging space, the lower level will continue to be rented to the Midwest Writing Center and, eventually, to The SwitchYard makerspace, a nonprofit offering a space with tools and equipment for do-it-yourself projects that people can't afford on their own. SwitchYard has already signed a contract with the library, and is currently located on the second floor.
The library's first floor would serve normal library functions. It would have designated areas for children and teens, reading areas, computers and historical/genealogical research materials.
The third floor would retain the community room, but the rest of the space would be available for rent.
Some residents fear that, eventually, the downtown location will close, as happened in Moline when that city's main location moved. Campbell and Kathy Lelonek, president of the library foundation, said they are committed to the downtown, and that they wouldn't be dedicating so much money for upgrades if they were going to close it.
• Retain the Southwest Branch. Operation of this branch is paid for through a contract with the Milan-Blackhawk Area Public Library District.
• Close and sell the 30/31 branch, with that money going to the overall project.
• The $15.64 million price tag for the overall plan also includes $2 million for escalation costs and another $2.7 million for contingency costs, money that might not be needed, Campbell said.
With this plan, nearly all residents are within three miles of a library location, she said.
She encourages residents to contact their aldermen to let them know what they think about the plan. "That's the only guidance they have to know what their constituents are thinking," she said.