Local Government

Hiawatha library officials kick off fundraising for facility overhaul

Plans call for $4.1 million, 13,500-square-foot addition

Hiawatha Public Library officials on Monday announced plans for a $4.1 million, 13,500-square-foot addition to the existing library at 150 W. Willman St. (Hiawatha Public Library rendering)
Hiawatha Public Library officials on Monday announced plans for a $4.1 million, 13,500-square-foot addition to the existing library at 150 W. Willman St. (Hiawatha Public Library rendering)

HIAWATHA — Officials from the Hiawatha Public Library on Monday kicked off phase one of a capital campaign to raise funds for a $4.1 million, 13,500-square-foot library expansion and renovation.

During a kickoff event at the library, 150 W. Willman St., officials announced more than $695,000 has been raised already as part of the “Make Room for Imagination” campaign, which has a phase one goal of $1 million.

Officials hope to raise another $1 million as part of phase two that will come after a city bond referendum in November for $1.2 million that already is in the city of Hiawatha’s budget. That means no additional tax dollars will be needed to pay for the bond, said Library Director Jeaneal Weeks.

Another $1 million is to come from the city’s share of the local-option sales tax.

“If we raise $2 million, we will have raised a little more than we need,” said Weeks. “That $2 million is still our goal.”

The project will more than double the existing 8,500-square-foot library, built in 1998, allowing for an information center with 15 computer workstations and two study rooms. Additionally, the expansion will create spaces for youth, tweens and young adults. A program space will be added to accommodate crowds at programs and community gatherings.

Officials said the current library lacks basic necessities, including a storm shelter, and proper spaces for HVAC systems, storage and employee workspaces. The expansion will include a lower level to accommodate these infrastructure improvements, as well as additional collection shelving.

Weeks said she’s most looking forward to the prospect of increased space to serve patrons and tailor library areas to meet specific community needs. For example, the current young adult area lacks space for Hiawatha’s teens to hang out and requires updating, she said.

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The need for more space became clear at least as early as 2005, Weeks said, but the flood in 2008 and the recession slowed the renovation planning process.

“The library is well-used, so much so that it is crowded,” said Brenda Powers, president of the Hiawatha Public Library board of trustees.

The library has the highest per capita circulation rate in Iowa and serves 300 people each day on average, officials said.

Additionally, the library often lacks space to accommodate all those who wish to attend events. As many as 400 have signed up for single events, which far exceeds capacity, Powers said.

“They are bursting at the seams,” said Hiawatha Mayor Bill Bennett at Monday’s event. “(The renovated building) is going to be a facility that’s efficient.”

Officials said the $2 million they are trying to raise will come from private, foundation and business donations during the two phases of the capital campaign. Weeks said she expects the fundraising to go smoothly this winter and spring if voters approve the capital bond.

She said officials plan to begin accepting bids for construction in the spring.

“The ... capital campaign is the perfect example of public-private partnership. It’s a win-win for our city, area economic development, our aging community members and our children,” Powers said.

Lead donors include AEGON Transamerica Foundation, Ahmann Design Inc. and World Class Industries, said Dave Castelluccio, campaign co-chairman.

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Library board member Anna Ronnebaum is one of the 76 individuals, businesses and organizations who have donated to the campaign so far. As a frequent library user, she said she’s seen the frequent overcrowding at the facility firsthand and feels confident investing in a project that will benefit the community long-term.

“Knowing that they’re going to spend it well and what it’s going toward made it an easy choice,” she said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8542; rilyn.eischens@thegazette.com

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