Appleton Public Library could undergo major changes in the future

APPLETON – The Appleton Public Library says it needs big changes to stay relevant. And that may mean moving locations.

The city paid about $70,000 for a study to help figure out the next step.

As e-books and the internet expand, what does that mean for the Appleton Public Library?

“Maybe physical checkouts do decline, but things like meetings and activities are in more demand than ever. Our door count continues to go up,” Director Colleen Rortvedt told FOX 11.

According to Rortvedt, about 1,600 people visit the library each day, which she says is an increase over the last few decades.

But the 33-year-old building is no longer serving those visitors’ needs.

“Years ago [libraries] were really built around stacks and stuff and now libraries are really about interaction and civic space,” Rortvedt explained.

Engberg Anderson, an architecture firm, is studying five locations in downtown Appleton to possibly house the future library. That includes maybe expanding the current building, but a lot needs to change, such as layout, wiring and ventilation, to keep the space flexible.

“From being a business incubator to being a study spot for kids to supporting education initiatives for the local schools,” said architect Bill Robison, explaining some of the facility’s current and expanding uses.

Robison told us the current building is about 86,000 square feet, with about 30% of that as usable collaborative space. The projected need is about 120,000 square feet with more room for collaboration.

“The new program, it probably approaches half the space,” Robison explained.

But residents have some concerns, like what will happen to any buildings that might happen to be in the area of the final chosen location?

Also, accessibility to the future location is a worry.

“It is an issue and a lot of people don’t like to park in parking ramps. We have a problem with parking meters and parking tickets,” said John Ulness.

The architects told us there will be a parking study once the final location is chosen.

An attempt to build a new library failed in 2009, but Rortvedt told us library leaders have learned a lot since then.

“We were able to use it as a kind of foundation to move forward. So I’m really optimistic,” said Rortvedt.

So what do you think of the plan? A public meeting is set for next week Thursday at the library. It will start at 4:30 p.m.

The full city council will still need to approve the final plan.

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