CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A trio of library experts has been chosen to take a fresh look at the new downtown Kanawha County Public Library that's been on the drawing boards for a decade.
Last week, the library's board of directors chose Providence Associates of Cottonwood, Ariz., to review the building program, architects' plans and property acquisition plans.
The current plan, scaled down in 2009, calls for a 113,000-square-foot building at the corner of Lee Street and Leon Sullivan Way, diagonally across from the Clay Center.
However, that design was based on assumptions made in 2002, library director Alan Engelbert said.
"Libraries have changed so much in the last 10 years," he said. "We have to refocus and move forward."
So the directors and their building committee put out a request for proposals for a consultant. They interviewed three candidates in late August and chose Providence. Engelbert is negotiating the final scope of the work and contract.
David Warren, the former director of the Richland County Public Library in Columbia, S.C., will lead team, Engelbert said, along with help from Kim Cullin of Zionsville, Ind. Laura Isenstein, the company's principal in Arizona and a librarian-turned-consultant, is the third team member.
"All three of the firms were very, very good," Engelbert said "I think [the building committee] was very comfortable with the people [at Providence] and their expertise. They have more experience in getting buildings actually built, conducting a [bond] referendum."
The last quality could be critical because the public phase of fundraising for the library has lagged. Charleston Mayor Danny Jones has shown little interest in committing city bond capacity to the project, saying the city has other priorities, such as the Civic Center.
The first step, however, is to see exactly how much space the new library needs for books, audio and video collections, offices, meeting rooms, computers and community space. That could change the design, and possibly reduce the size of the building.
"One highly specific issue is: What is the impact of electronic books and materials on collections?" Engelbert said.
"Typically, when writing a program for a library building, you project collections for another 20 years and provide room to shelve what collections you'll have. Electronic books and materials are changing that calculation."
The role of libraries also is changing, Engelbert said.
"We're becoming a community hub. We want to know: What are other libraries doing? By bringing in people who deal with many libraries, we want to know what the trends are.
"In the current building plan, we have a computer lab. That may turn instead into more of a collaborative space instead of a lot of computers lined up. Taking into account mobile devices, instead of a lot of stations we may provide a whole lot of outlets.
"The other thing that's kind of running through our planning process is Imagine Charleston. As part of the master planning for the city of Charleston, they've taken a look at the block the library is located on."
Imagine Charleston is the tag line consultants have given to the 18-month process begun early this year to write a new comprehensive plan and downtown development plan for the city.