Thursday February 2, 2006
Three regional centers to expand city’s library system
Mayor Jerry Abramson will recommend using $2 million from a one-time dividend to purchase land for three new regional libraries in suburban Louisville – the next major step in expanding the city’s library system.
Flanked by library leaders and supporters at the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, Abramson announced today that he will ask the Metro Council to devote most of the money from a one-time windfall from the Louisville Water Co. to purchasing the land.
"Regional libraries are cornerstones for a 21st century library system that serves all of Louisville’s citizens," Abramson said. "Purchasing the land now for these libraries is a smart investment because land costs will continue to rise."
Abramson made the announcement just hours before a special public forum on the future of Louisville’s libraries, sponsored by the Americans for Libraries Council, a national non-profit that champions the role of libraries in public life.
Louisville is one of five cities chosen for the national "Listening Tour," underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and co-sponsored by Public Agenda, a non-partisan opinion research firm.
Library officials have been negotiating for several weeks with a number of landowners in the three suburban areas defined in the Library’s Master Plan, a blueprint for the library system’s future that has been endorsed by the mayor and the Metro Council.
The Library Foundation and the Library Commission hired a real-estate firm to identify prime locations and assist in negotiations with landowners. Abramson praised Mary Griffith, chairman of the Library Foundation, and Rae Horton, chairman of the Library Commission, for the continued support and leadership provided by the boards.
"The library’s leadership has charted a bold course for the future," Abramson said. "It’s time to take the next major step in improving our system of life-long learning centers."
The master plan calls for creating three regional libraries, which would be two to three times larger than neighborhood branches, to serve the suburban areas, and eventually expanding or replacing the main downtown library and improving branch libraries.
No land deals have been finalized but library officials hope to secure land for regional libraries within the next couple of months, said Craig Buthod, director of the library system.
Once the land is purchased, library and metro government officials will begin the next phase – a public discussion about what offerings the regional libraries should include, what they should look like and how they should be constructed and financed, Buthod said.
Abramson said he wants to explore new, innovative approaches to funding the construction of libraries – including lease-purchase options – that could both speed the timetable for opening the regionals and save money for taxpayers.