There was a tangible energy Wednesday afternoon in a third floor meeting room of the main branch of the Boise Public Library. That's where the library's board of trustees received a substantive update on something called the "main library vision project." Simply put, representatives from Architectural Nexus laid out preliminary proposals—there were five of them, some more ambitious than others—that will determine the main library branch's future.
"We tasked these gentlemen with several 'What if?' scenarios," said Kevin Booe, Boise Library director. "What if we stayed with our present building? What if we expanded our present building? What if we launched new construction?"
In the 1970s, Boise city officials decided to spend $2.6 million to purchase and renovate the old Salt Lake Hardware Warehouse into a new library at its current site on Capitol Boulevard. The original design of the library targeted a Boise population of only 75,000. The current layout includes approximately 78,000 gross square feet. And while Boise has expanded it library network to include three new neighborhood branches (Collister, Hillcrest, and Cole and Ustick), attendance at the main branch continues to grow, regularly topping more than 1 million in-person visits per year.
But Boise's population is expected to top 247,000 by the year 2020, 285,000 by 2030 and 328,000 by 2040.
And just based on current space at the library, experts estimate that the current layout is about 31,000 square-feet short of needed space for its services.
So, five possible options were unveiled Wednesday, giving library trustees plenty to mull over, while planners continue to determine the cost and needed space for each option:
Option 1: Only renovate the existing space with reducing the size of a loading dock and a great reduction in the size of the book collection. There would be no growth potential, but there would be a "somewhat better building for users."
Option 2: Renovate and expand, again with removals and a reduction of the collection. There would be enough space to meet the approximate needs for 10 years.
Option 3: A total renovation with some collection reductions, meant to meet the needs for 15 years.
Option 4: Add so-called "high density" shelving and storage, allowing the collections to grow, meeting the needs for the next 20 years.
Option 5: Construction of an all new building, meeting the needs for the next 20 years, but using less total space due to efficiencies.
Option 5 would also allow the existing library building to be re-used for possible apartments, condos or retail space. The new library would be able to be constructed on existing library space.
Planners are expected to be returning in July with some more numbers, including approximate costs, for each of the proposed options.