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Library seeks more room for children

By Katherine Wartell

A larger children’s library, including an expanded story-time room, could be developed at the Manhattan Public Library. Officials say they are trying to determine the level of private funding that might be available to pay for a portion of the expansion’s estimated cost.

Tentative plans include adding 4,300 square feet to the existing children’s library, which would double its size, giving more room for books, tables and computer stations and a larger room for story-time activities. Plans also include construction of a garden area that would be built outside the story-time room.

The project is estimated to cost $1.5 million, with building construction alone estimated to cost $1.05 million. Brent Bowman at Bowman Bowman Novick, Inc. estimated that the garden and site improvements would cost $50,000, while architecture and engineering fees and furnishings would cost $310,000. The remaining $90,000 would pay for printing, materials testing and contingencies.

Robert Haines, president of the Manhattan Library Foundation, said they would like to raise $500,000 of the funds privately and have a feasibility study underway to determine whether that is a realistic goal. He said about 50 to 75 community members who have shown an interest in the library have been approached. Backers have lined up a representative from Partners in Philanthropy, a firms specializing in fund-raising efforts, to lead the effort.

Haines said if it is determined that the funds can be raised, the next step would be going to city commissioners for their help acquiring the remaining $1 million. “Because of economic times, we felt we need to raise at least one-third of the money,” he said. “We wanted to create a situation where the city would have an incentive [to provide the rest of the funds].”

If library officials determine they will not be able to privately raise the funds, Haines said they would most likely not approach the city commissioners, saying it would be unrealistic.

But, Haines said, he is optimistic that they will be able to raise the money. He said, as a college town, there is a broad base of interest in Manhattan for learning and that constituents have been very pleased with the library. Haines also cited the importance of educating children early.

The expansion would be started in 2013, but Haines said it would be futile to try to provide a time-table, saying the last expansion, in 1998, was delayed at least a year due to zoning issues.

In the letter to chosen community members, Haines, along with Heather Lansdowne, president of the Manhattan Library Association, and Todd Simon, president of the Manhattan Public Library, wrote that the expansion was necessary because children have outgrown the present library space. They wrote that there are long waiting periods for computers and that there isn’t enough space in the present story-time room to accommodate the number of patrons who come with their children.

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