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Monroe County Public Library approves new southwest branch



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Director of the Monroe County Public Library Marilyn Wood speaks during a special meeting March 4 at the Monroe County Public Library. The Board of Trustees approved a plan to construct a new library branch on the southwest side of Bloomington next to Batchelor Middle School. Ty Vinson

The Monroe County Public Library Board of Trustees approved a plan Wednesday to build a new library location on the southwest side of Bloomington next to Batchelor Middle School.

It will cost between $8.8 and $9.8 million to construct. Construction is scheduled to begin next year, and the library is scheduled to open by 2022. 

The project will take up about five to six acres of land, and each acre costs $27,500. The area is the home of what some call Batchelor Forest, a few acres of trees that were planted by school children and Bloomington residents between 1999 and 2010. 

Tom Coleman, a retired IU professor, said he was concerned about the forest being cut down during the meeting's public comment period. He said over the span of 11 years more than 1,100 school children participated in planting trees in Batchelor Forest. More than 500 seedlings were planted each year and there are now thousands of trees growing there, spanning 30 different species. 

Coleman said getting rid of the forest and replacing it with a building would be detrimental to Bloomington’s status as a tree-loving city. He said Bloomington is a community that plants trees and expects them to be able to grow to maturity.  

“This is the Batchelor Forest,” Coleman said. “It deserves the same respect as Dunn’s Woods at Indiana University.”

Marilyn Wood, director of MCPL, said the board conducted surveys and had community conversations to gauge whether people were interested in having a new library branch in a different part of the city. A feasibility study was conducted last year by the library and includes information on costs, the construction timeline and survey answers. 

According to the study, operating costs for the new branch will be approximately $675,000 a year. The City of Bloomington already approved funding for the new branch.

Wood said she hopes to expand the library’s partnership with the Monroe County Community School Corporation since the library will be next to a school.

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