After decades of consideration, the Monroe County Public Library is planning a new branch for the southwest area of Monroe County.
The third location would serve one of the fastest growing areas of the county, said Marilyn Wood, director of MCPL. New businesses are flocking to the area, roads are expanding and housing developments are springing up, but the area is underserved by libraries and internet access.
“We feel very positive about a new library offering services to people who may not have services now,” Wood said.
Some southwest residents have difficulty coming to the main branch downtown, Wood said, especially due to parking issues.
MCPL has spent the last couple years working on a specific plan to serve this area.
Earlier this year, MCPL commissioned Matheu Architects, PC for a feasibility study for the new branch. The company is currently working with MCPL to collect feedback on services and programming southwest residents would like.
The location would serve residents of Indian Creek township, Van Buren township and parts of Perry and Clear Creek townships, said Christine Matheu, president of Matheu Architects.
Aside from books and computers, Matheu said, libraries are starting to offer more services distinct to the communities they serve.
“Libraries nowadays are really becoming community centers,” Matheu said.
Some people in the southwest area don't have access to internet, Matheu said, forcing them to use their cell phones as hotspots. A library would provide free internet.
Not only is the company assessing potential services inside the library, such as general reading areas, performance spaces, study spaces and conference rooms, but also services outside the building, such as an amphitheater and a community garden.
MCPL and Matheu Architects led one community conversation last week and will offer two more Monday and Thursday.
“We're trying to come up with a library that everybody in these areas will feel like it's their own library,” Matheu said.
Feedback from the community conversations will be used to develop a service program detailing the types of services the library should provide, Matheu said. That information will then be matched with a space program, which will start to establish the types and sizes of spaces the building will need.
From there, the architect company will start identifying site locations, and will test a prototype building plan. They will present a report of their findings and recommendations by December.
Wood said she anticipates a consistent tax rate for the new branch.
MCPL has been prudent with financial planning in recent years, Wood said, and Bloomington’s growing population has allowed MCPL to collect more revenue than it needs for its operational costs. Meanwhile, bonds have covered larger projects such as replacing the roof of the main location and renovating the Ellettsville branch. The tax rate has stayed constant as a result.
The second community conversation is Monday from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. at Broadview Learning Center Community Room. Another opportunity comes this Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. at Batchelor Heights Clubhouse.
"To have the best services in any library, we need to understand what the people who will be making use of it need," Wood said.