Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Library patrons head to the polls Tuesday

March 31, 2004

Years ago, a few volumes of books were housed in a small concrete structure with 12-inch-thick walls on Leavenworth Road. This was the first Basehor library.

The library's collection was marked with the stamp of Reuben Basehor, town and library founder, who designed the library's concrete structure to protect the precious few volumes from fire.

Later the library moved to tidier digs, this time a corner of the lunchroom at Basehor Grade School; there, the library operated on money from family memberships and was open to the public two hours a week.

Ruby Wiley, a longtime Basehor resident, said she doesn't know much about the first library but remembers its tenure at the elementary school, where she was employed as an early-childhood teacher.

"Just a little bit of nothing is what it was," Wiley said. "It was very small. If they had 200 books, I imagine it would be plenty."

Throughout the years, Basehor's library has shifted from its humble beginnings in that stone structure, which still stands today and is used as a storage shed, to various elementary schools.

That changed in 1985 when the library got a permanent home in downtown Basehor, on 155th Street. Next week, voters will decide whether it's time to move the library again.

On Tuesday, voters in the library district, which encompasses approximately 50 square miles, will decide whether to fund a $3.79 million bond issue. The funds would pay for a new building on 158th Street.

Fittingly, the proposed new library would be constructed just feet away from a statue featuring Reuben Basehor.

Wiley, a town matriarch, will work the voting polls with three other volunteers Tuesday. She said she's interested to see whether the library will stay where it is or be reunited with its founder.

"I think it's an awful lot of money but I know they need it very badly," she said.

'Dire need'

Carla Kaiser, Basehor Community Library director, said the library has taken great strides since it began operating at its downtown location. The collection has gradually increased, services have improved and the library has expanded as much as possible at the current location. According to library figures, 589 people use the library per week.

However, those strides have taken a back seat in recent years, Kaiser said. Because of a growing circulation and readership, the library and its programs have been handcuffed by a lack of space.

Instead of retaining books, the library has forfeited many older books because of a space crunch. The collection, instead of growing into an extensive one, has shortened.

"There are gains I feel like we've had to give up," she said. "For a while, our collection was getting nice and nicer and now we've reached the apex.

"Our collection would be larger if the space existed to keep everything we'd like to keep."

Location, location

There are other problems as well.

Many children's programs offered by the library have to be held off site because ample room isn't available. The parking lot has only six spaces. Just a few seats are available for anyone who wants to read at the library.

Kaiser said library officials wouldn't be offering the bond issue unless it was needed. And whatever the community puts in to the library, it will get back in return.

"A nice library is an asset to the community," she said. "When people or businesses are out looking to locate somewhere, the condition and quality of the schools and library are something they consider.

"It says something about what the community values and what they invest in."

What it will cost

The $3.79 million price tag for the library is a total cost. Library officials said it includes everything from construction to new materials.

Taxes would be levied against voters in the library district for 10 years with a maturation date of 2014. According to estimates, an approved bond issue would increase the library district's mill levy by 7.79 mills; the current mill rate is 3.23 mills. An approved bond issue would mean the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $89.58 in taxes per year, or $7.46 per month.

The proposed new library would be on 158th Street on three acres donated by Basehor residents Ray and Anne Breuer.

The $3.79 million in funds would pay for a 21,000-square-foot building. The new library would feature sections for children, young adult and adult readers. It will also include a computer area, used book store and drive-through window.

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