Most people who visit the North Valley Public Library in Stevensville are struck by many things; the friendliness of the staff, the size and content of the collection, and possibly also by the lack of parking, the age of the building and perhaps even its decrepitude.
Due to the building’s age, there have been several costly and unexpected maintenance issues that have cropped up. Just in the last few years the furnace has been replaced, the roof has been replaced, parts of the ceiling have had to be replaced or repaired, parts of the floor were reinforced, and mold remediation was performed twice. These were all unexpected issues, and quite apart from any planned building improvements for the health and well-being of the patrons. Low cost LED lighting was installed to remedy low light levels in the adult section. However, the ceiling moves, causing the lights to lose connection.
Patrons will notice that the building still has issues with floors, while the basement and the whole second story have so many issues they are unusable.
The current library building is a conglomeration of three original buildings which were never meant to be used as a large public space. Because of this, the library lacks even some basic amenities, such as a water fountain for thirsty patrons. Despite this, the buildings could certainly be put to good use by a different business, one that had more singular needs.
For many years, various library boards have been examining the possibility of a new building, either on a new site, or on the current one. The present board has been working hard to this end, doing their due diligence to explore all options for the buildings and the community. Architects have been consulted and engineering reports read. Several different options have been examined, including rebuilding in the same location as well as a new or repurposed building in several different sites around the town.
“We are taking our responsibility to the taxpayers very seriously,” says Denise Ard, Library Director.
Current building issues include water seepage into the basement, resulting in mold and some rot in the timbers. The water seepage cannot be resolved without substantial site work.
Jacob Wright is the principal architect at MMW Architects in Missoula, the firm that has been hired to do a preliminary architectural report (PAR) for the library. Wright noted that the cost to tear down and rebuild on the current site would be substantially more than a new building.
In addition, if a rebuild was undertaken on the same site, library services to the community would be severely impacted, or may even have to cease, for an estimated time of at least two years.
Wright’s conclusion was that while a teardown and rebuild on the same site may be practical for a developer, it is not practical for the requirements of the community for the library.
An examination by the board of a proposal to combine the yet-to-be built Stevensville Community Center (SCC) and the library resulted in a determination that melding the two entities on the SCC’s property would not be viable.
After meeting with parties involved in the SCC concept plan, the architect advised that there was less than 10% overlap of use between the two entities, and therefore no significant savings to be made by either party. There was not enough land available for the library’s functional wish list for a new building, and certainly no room for future expansion by either party. In summary, Wright stated, “Realisti
cally I doubt there would be enough capacity for both to be on the SCC site.”
Over the years, the board has sought community input about ways to improve the library. If a new building were to go ahead, the board would seek to incorporate some of those aspects into the new facility. Additional functionality could include increased parking, large and small meeting rooms especially for patrons wishing to take on-line exams or hold meetings, more collection and display space, and a dedicated soundproofed, supervised area for teens, so they would have somewhere safe to spend time after school.
The library board continues to look at proposals, and will be seeking additional public input soon at a meeting facilitated by outside library consultants. Look for that to happen sometime in the fall. Anyone interested in learning more about the library board’s efforts to find a solution to the current building problems can contact Victoria Howell, library board chair, at 406-207-8793 or email her at: [email protected]
North Valley Public Library is located at 208 Main Street, Stevensville. The Library enriches lives through free resources for learning, fun, and opportunity. For more information, call 406-777-5061 or visit northvalleylibrary.org. All library programs are free and open to the public.