Representatives from Alley Poyner Machietto (APM) Architecture took input from a group of local residents regarding Keene Memorial Library’s proposed expansion project at a public forum on Thursday.

Along with APM representatives, Keene Library staff, and Friends of the Library members also attended the meeting regarding the estimated $8-$10 million expansion and renovation project at Keene.

“What we want to know is, the phrase that I keep using is, your dreams and desires for the best public library we could possibly have,” Jeff Hoffman, expansion committee chair, said at the meeting.

According to Library Director Tina Walker, the expansion project would provide for a separate children’s area, more parking and community meeting space, and make the building American with Disablities Act (ADA) complaint.

In a recent interview with the Tribune, Walker also shared the library’s expansion wish list.

The expansion, estimated to be 13,000 square feet, would consist of two stories east of the current building and be connected to it.

Walker said the children’s area will take up the bottom floor of the expansion to provide safety and security for them and to eliminate noise for other readers. This area will include a children’s program room, children’s staff offices and an open teen area.

The upstairs portion of the expansion would have a large community meeting room that can be divided into multiple meeting rooms if needed. It would have high technology and a catering kitchen.

Walker also said the expansion will include new family restrooms, an ADA-compliant elevator and doors.

The bottom floor of the older (current) building will provide a quiet reading area for adults and a computer lab. The top floor will consist of offices and adult non-fiction reading materials.

“We made a small ‘want list’ and we’re waiting for those community forums in February and March to see what the public wants. We will be including community feedback in our design,” Walker told the Tribune at the time.

The community feedback comes by way of a series of meetings, like the one held at the May Brothers Building on Thursday, where APM representatives looked to seek community input.

“We want to make sure that we are constantly listening throughout the design process, because we recognize that this is not our library, this is your library, so we want to get it right,” Denise Powell, APM community liaison, said.

According to Powell, the design team from APM working on the Keene expansion have worked on 50 different libraries throughout the country including multiple in Nebraska.

“We are currently renovating the library in Norfolk and we have done libraries from Scottsbluff to Papillion and everywhere in between,” she said.

Two members of the APM design team also spoke to the crowd at Thursday meeting, they include architect Ryan Fischer and interior designer Nancy Novak.

“We have two phases to this project and what we are doing in this first phase is kind of a big vision study,” Novak said. “So we want to reach out to the community and gather information that will help us create a vision for the new library. That includes how much square feet do we need, what is going to be happening on the inside, what kind of program space is needed, those kinds of things.”

Novak also spoke about how libraries have changed over the recent years with increased technology and the need for more community and programming space.

“The library is the living room of the community, it is not just a place to source information anymore it is a place for people to come together,” she said. “So the community room that you have now fit about 30 people in the east building and 60 in the main building. We are looking at a 150 plus person space so we can bring the community together to have large activities, meetings, families could rent it for reunions. Spaces that are free to the community, just as the information in the collection is free to the community.”

Fisher emphasized that the actual design of the expansion and renovation are a long way from being set in stone, but through rough evaluations of the current building the team noted several possible changes.

“One of the things we noticed is the multiple entrances, ideally you want to have one main area you step into and then that circulation desk,” he said. “It’s very visual and it is kind of intuitive so you know where you need to go, it also allows staff to see what is going on. So the multiple entrances on both side might be a little problematic right now.”

He also pointed to the current separation of the staff area and the children’s area, citing that ideally those two spaces would have a closer proximity.

Another possible change would be increasing natural light within the building by adding more windows.

“The building is a great example of classical modernism, it’s gorgeous, but the natural light coming into that building is somewhat limited right now,” he said. “That connection to the outdoors is critical for any space, but especially for a library. So one of the things we have been asking ourselves is how do we let more light in and how do we let more people outside view what is going on inside the library.”

According to Walker, APM plans to begin its design phase in March or April.

“Their intent is to roll out all the results of the community input and to have a semi-finished product available to show people before the bond issue in May,” Walker said at an advisory council meeting in January.

Hoffman also recently talked with the Tribune about a bond issue proposed for $2 million each ($6 million total) for the library expansion, Fremont City Auditorium renovation and the addition of a lazy river to the Splash Station. Walker said there would be a $31-a-year increase in homeowner’s tax if all three pass.

She also said other Nebraska cities where libraries are expanding are putting in funds toward those projects. She said $2 million will be needed to get started.

“I can’t even file for a Peter Kiewit grant until we hit 50 percent of what we need,” she said, adding, “the total project cost will not be known until April until they get a design finished. It’s estimated at $8 (million) to $10 million right now, but we don’t know that.”