Archive for Thursday, January 12, 2006

Library officials: Fire underscores need for building

January 12, 2006

"Fahrenheit 451" -- a book about the burning of books -- nearly became reality Friday morning at Basehor Community Library.

Library officials found an electrical outlet along the east wall scorched and spitting white smoke. It required the attention of the Fairmount Township Fire Department, which responded to the scene.

Librarians count themselves -- and the community they serve -- lucky that life did not imitate art.

Director Carla Kaiser said that had the problem occurred during non-business hours it's possible the library would be nothing more than a pile of rubble and ash today.

She said firefighters indicated "if it had happened when no one was here it was likely the building would have caught fire."

"I think that's what concerned me most ... it was just one electrical outlet."

The library was closed Friday for several hours while repairs were made to the outlet. Employees from Elite Electric said problems related to the wiring of the outlet caused the scorching.

Friday's narrow escape from disaster reinforced library officials' long-standing belief that it's time to change addresses.

"I think it emphasizes the safety concerns we have about the building," Kaiser said.

The library announced last week that, on Feb. 28, it will ask patrons in its 50-square-mile voting district to approve a $2.99 million bond issue. Proceeds would finance a new library on 158th Street, between Parallel Road and U.S. Highway 24-40. The new building would include 13,400 square feet. The latest plan is a paired-down version of a bond issue proposed -- and rejected -- by voters in 2004.

A successful bond issue would complete the library's evolution from a minor service with one employee in 1985 to a full-service, media and information center with numerous employees.

In 1985, the year the library was founded, it encompassed 1,087 square feet. During that inaugural year, patrons checked out nearly as many items, 6,073, as the library contained in its collection, 6,950.

Over three decades, it has tripled its original size -- now 3,500 square feet -- and employee roster, nine. The library also has adjusted to the technological age by adding computers. It now includes 16 computer terminals. All feature high-speed Intenet access.

According to statistics, the library notched 42,952 visits in 2005. In 1992, the first year the library recorded its number of visits, patrons made just 11,440 trips to the library.

Its collection has grown from a scant 6,950 in 1985 to a sprawling 25,626 today. That collection includes books, magazines, newspapers, CD's and DVD's, videotapes and audio books.

Adding to the collection, a must for the library to maintain pace with patron demands, has cut into limited storage space.

"Since 2002, we have removed seating, tables and a display case to make room for new items -- and we continue to do so today," Kaiser said.

Renderings of the proposed new library soon will be available for patrons to view. The Basehor Library Board of Trustees was scheduled to vote Wednesday on architectural drawings, floor plans and elevation sketches.

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