Chesterton Tribune



Library Board OKs plan for needs assessment

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The Westchester Public Library Board of Trustees approved a proposal for a facilities needs assessment on the three WPL-owned buildings at its meeting last night.

Library Director Lisa Stamm reported CSK Architects will do the assessment for $14,500, which is a competitive price they offer to libraries. CSK comes highly recommended by other area library directors and has recently worked with both the Lake County and Porter County library systems, according to Stamm.

Stamm said the goal of the study is to help the Board and library staff develop a capital improvements plan for using the funds built up in WPL’s Library Improvement Reserve Fund (LIRF). The roughly $8 million in LIRF has been building up since WPL’s inception, and the Board approved use of the funds for the first time last year, for a replacement of the Baugher Center Patio and new secure doors at the Thomas Branch staff entrance.

Stamm said WPL has needed renovations for some time, but she was also partially motivated to start the process since legislation passed last year could pose a threat to libraries like WPL that have accumulated more than 150% of their annual operating budgets in reserve. The law allows local government bodies to take fiscal oversight of their corresponding libraries with the option to reduce a library’s budget by up to 10%.

The needs assessment will identify and value the most urgent needs, inside and out, at the Thomas and Hageman branches and the Baugher Center. The Westchester Township History Museum is not included because WPL leases it from the Duneland School Corporation; however, the Museum was evaluated in a Duneland Schools facilities assessment in October.

Stamm said she some issues are glaring, such as cramped bathrooms that are difficult for patrons with accessibility issues to navigate and HVAC systems that are hanging on by a thread. The study will also delve into space utilization and other interior improvements. Results will be back in March. Board member Kathy Cochran and Board President Rondi Wightman were especially excited about the quick turnaround and low cost.

Other Approvals

The Board voted to transfer 10% of its 2019 operating budget ($355,514) into the Rainy Day Fund. The Board typically deposits between five and 10% of the prior year’s budget into the Rainy Day Fund each January.

The Board also approved Stamm to schedule annual staff in-service days and staff holiday breakfasts without consulting the Board going forward. The 2020 staff in-service day will be Aug. 28. The holiday breakfast is still to be decided.

Librarian’s Report

Stamm reported the migration of WPL’s online calendar software from the old system to a new more interactive system was planned for Jan. 7, but there have been some technical issues. The new software, once live, will allow patrons to make online reservations for meeting rooms.

Work was done on three heating units at the Baugher Center and an external light at the Hageman Branch for $1,200 and $1,535, respectively.

WPL’s new Young Adult Librarian is Sionna Hartigan, who Stamm described as “a powerhouse of ideas.” She’s relocating from New Jersey and begins at the end of January.

In December, 29,441 patrons visited WPL. 546 people attended 19 WPL programs, and 227 people used library meeting rooms.

Board of Finance

After the regular meeting, the Board reconvened as the Board of Finance to reorganize. The Board of Finance elected the same slate of officers as the regular Board and reviewed and reapproved its investment policy with no changes.



Posted 1/10/2020





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