Finding the fourth piece of the puzzle
Colby Public Library looks to build new facilities
COLBY — The Colby Public Library (CPL) has been a steadfast institution since pioneering families established Colby in the late 1800s.
The scope of its facilities and offerings has grown over its 137-year history, but recently the library has failed to accommodate the enormous presence it has become in the county for which it provides.
Of the approximately 291,000 materials checked out from Clark County libraries in 2015, about 75,500 of them were obtained from the CPL, nearly 26 percent of the county’s circulation.
In addition, the 129 CPL programs in 2015 welcomed over 3,000 participants, with single events seeing 80 some attendees.
Today the Colby Public Library resides in the remodeled portion of the Colby City Hall that once served as the city’s fire station. The 2,400-square-foot portion of the 64-year-old building has become inadequate, and the Colby Public Library Building Committee is looking to create a new facility.
Contributors provide first piece
“The city had looked at various options, and they were almost set to buy us the old (Colby) Clinic building — now the Mid-State building — and my library board said, ‘No, it’s not set up for a library. It’s not big enough. There’s no off-street parking,’” said CPL Director Vicky Calmes. “The second plan they came up with was to add an addition on to this building. It would have added a bowling alley piece onto the building.
“It would have necessitated bringing everything up to code in here. The problem was where would they put us during that because there is no way a library could function during that time. We would have also needed an elevator to make the basement accessible because we would have needed to use that space.”
As the city of Colby struggled to come up with a building conversion effort that would work for the library, a few community members began to see the extreme need for a new building.
“The donors stepped in and said, ‘I think that Colby, because of what you have been doing, you need something a little bit better than a cobbled-on piece,’” said Calmes. “So they came forward with $500,000.”
“When they saw that the bowling alley piece wasn’t going to work and the clinic wasn’t going to work, they did put the stipulation that the money was for a new library, free-standing, not an addition,” Calmes added. “They brought that forward to the city, and they accepted it.”
The city and CDBG provide matching pieces
“The city, who knew they needed to do something but didn’t know exactly what to do, did match that, providing a $500,000 city contribution” said Calmes. “So we had two pieces going there.
“Then we stepped back and had an architect look at the assessment.”
When the architect came back with the plans, the original 8,000-square-foot planned library building now looked to be between 10,000 and 13,000 square feet. A building committee was formed, and the facility was scaled down to 10,600 square feet.
“The donors stepped forward again and pledged another $300,000 to make sure the project was built for the future rather than just the needs now,” recalled Calmes. “That’s when we started a Community Development Block Grant application. That was our third piece of the puzzle.”
Community Development Block Grants are awarded annually through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to local governments and states that meet specific requirements. In addition, the grant application process requires an 80 percent survey participation rate by the citizens requesting funding.
Calmes said, “We had enough people return their surveys. The low-to-moderate income was definitely within the range, so in August we found out that received full funding: $500,000.”
Seeking the fourth piece
“The proposed project is $2.2 million. That’s not all building,” said Calmes.
Project coordinators eyed two pieces of land owned by the Colby School District, one situated on the Colby school campus and another to the west of the Colby School District center on County Highway N.
“The school decided that they wanted to keep the land on their campus,” added Calmes. “They will be vacating the district center before demolition, and they are moving those offices up to the high school.”
The library will purchase the five acres of land on the west side of Colby, and the asbestos-ridden district center will be removed before library construction.
“We are responsible for the proper demolition of the building,” said Calmes. “That $2.2 million includes demolition of the building and removal, site preparation, utilities, and things other than the building.”
The $1.8 million in acquired funds leaves a shortfall of approximately $400,000, which Calmes hopes to raise in a series of community-funded options.
“The fourth piece of the puzzle is the community,” said Calmes. “We are asking people to do naming opportunities in the new library.”
Naming opportunities range from including a name on a Giving Tree — as a business, foundation, memorial, or donation — to specific areas, material, or structures of the library.
“We are in the process of buying the property and building. It will be ours by March 1,” added Calmes. “Then, we will begin the demo. We are hoping in May to turn the dirt.”
If the project continues to move as intended, Calmes plans to be in the new building by fall 2017.
For more information, contact Colby Public Library Director Vicky Calmes at 715-223-2000.