New Library Site Update

On Monday, September 20, the Library Board met with the Village Board to present the impacts to the budget and to the vision of the new library project if the new library is built on Main Street on the downtown lot. Based on that conversation, the Library Board and Village Board will be working together to explore alternative locations for the new library to be built. This will include, but not be limited to, exploration of property owned by the Village on the corner of Alpine Parkway and County Hwy CC (across from the Oregon Food Pantry). 

The decision to now take a pause from design and thoughtfully discuss alternative site options was not taken lightly. We have been dreaming of a new downtown library since the Village designated the Main St. site for a new library in 2017, following recommendations by planning consultants.

However, just as the final design was about to begin, the realities of the growing limitations due to the site’s soil conditions, grading, stormwater needs, size, and layout became increasingly concerning to both the project budget and the vision. While some challenges were anticipated, it was only through the civil engineering work that sufficient information became available to fully understand the cumulative impacts of these challenges. 

The question has been asked, “Why didn’t anyone know this before?” I’d like to take a moment to explain some background on the project. As the two boards started the process of building the library, a Memorandum of Understanding (or MOU) was entered into between the Village and Library Boards. This provided a very detailed process that had to be followed. 

First, a fundraising feasibility study was conducted and then a fundraising goal was determined. The next step was for the library to complete conceptual design in order to help with fundraising. The conceptual designs allowed us to do visioning sessions with the community and staff, put together initial space requirements, create renderings of what the building might look like, as well as locate it on a site plan. By nature, concept plans show a vision, but very little detail. No engineering or design documents were created at this step of the process.

Architectural work was then paused to allow for fundraising, which was extended due to the pandemic. Once there was sufficient funding to cover the expected project costs, the Library Board was able to take the next step: Officially hiring an engineer and architect to do the design work needed to understand the site grades, soil conditions, and storm water management. This step of the process just started in mid-August 2021 with a final design contract forthcoming. 

Once the design professionals were able to assess the site and put costs to this specific site, the findings were presented to the Library Board on September 8th. We felt it was important to pause any further work and have a candid discussion with the Village Board about the additional costs associated with the Main St. site and long term goals of the library project. We knew there were options available now that weren’t available four years ago with the Main Street site was formally selected as the site for the new library. This brought us to the discussion we had with the Village Board and the determination by both boards that exploring other sites would be worthwhile to reach the goal of a library that will last into the future.

With the expertise of the design professionals, we will be able to look at other sites with the same critical lens we’ve been able to review our current site with. We will engage with the community to make sure the site that is chosen is treated respectfully and that the visions that the community shared three years ago, and the visions that will be shared as we listen to new information, are joined to create a sustainable library for generations to come.

Please feel free to reach out to me, Jennifer Endres Way, Library Director at 608-835-2322 or jway@oregonlibrary.org if you have any questions or concerns. I am happy to discuss this more with you. 

Sincerely,

Jennifer Endres Way, Library Director &

Jenny Nelson, Library Board President