Hennen Library Consulting Report for Consensus

Building Assessment Report for Altoona Public Library in Iowa – 2017


From the Introduction

This report was compiled by library consultant Thomas J. Hennen Jr. for Consensus in February and March of 2017.  Some of the data in this report relies on reports compiled by the federal government’s Institute for Museums and Library Services (IMLS).  Long range planning requires thoughtful analysis of the library’s present building and equipment situation as well as projections for the future.  A good plan will detail the replacement cycle for such things as computer workstations and the roof as well as whether there is a need for building upgrades or replacements during the timeframe of the planning period.  While large issues like building or remodeling can be considered in focus groups and surveys, it is the responsibility of the Library Board and the City Council to include or not include such items in a Long-Range Plan.

The purpose of the report is to consider the current condition of the building, its equipment, and furnishings.  It then provides recommendations on the use of the current facility as well as on possible design considerations for an expansion of the building on the current site.

It is often said that “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”  When I visited the Altoona Public Library in the second week of February 2017, the library and its staff made a very good impression indeed.  The building was bright, clean, and cheerful even on a dreary day in February.  The staff were welcoming, attentive, and friendly.  Nevertheless, a closer inspection revealed a number of shortcomings in the building.  Some of these can be overcome without major renovation or expansion; others cannot.  This report provides a look at what can be done in the current building and what might be done in an expansion.

Document Summary

  • Section 2 of this report starts with a comparison of the size of this library to the 20 libraries with comparable populations in surrounding counties by total space provided per resident.  Altoona is about at the median for size but will sink to near the bottom in 20 years if population grows as projected.  We looked at the current building site in terms of parking and library user access.  Parking is adequate for the most part.   The configuration of the site means that only about half of the exterior space can be devoted to parking, the rest is consumed by driveways and an exterior book return.  One of the challenges of an expansion will be to re-configure the parking and drive spaces for more efficient use.  Next we examined the building layout with attention to the current configuration of public space, collection space, and work space.   Section 2 also includes a checklist on the current building and needed modifications.
  • In Sections 3 to 5 we provide a narrative description of the outdoor areas of the library site, the public areas, and the non-public spaces in the building.  Throughout these sections, we take note of ways that an expanded building could be configured.
  • Section 6 covers the equipment in the building.  This is divided into 3 broad categories and includes rough cost estimates.  First we consider the heating and other mechanical equipment.  Next we consider the parking lot and related outdoor equipment.  Finally, we discuss the office and related furniture and equipment, including computers.
  • In Section 7 we turn to estimated costs for a building expansion and possible grant funding opportunities. We projected expansion costs to be between $4.7 million and $7.6 million.  The state library may offer grant funding for accessibility improvements in the future.
  • Section 8, Appendix, includes the population projections from the Altoona City plan and a grid that can be used for planning what design elements should be in proximity to one another in an expanded building.