Coos Bay Library Renovations

Library Director Sami Pierson points out repairs needed to the roof and windows during a tour Tuesday of the Coos Bay Public Library.

COOS BAY — Coos Bay City Council held its biweekly work session at the Coos Bay Public Library on Tuesday in order to receive a tour of the library’s failing structure by library staff.

Library staff showed the city council and members of the public the many areas where there are leaks in the ceiling, the worst of which is guided into a bucket through a tarp taped to the ceiling with a hose placed in the corner. Folks in attendance were also shown the areas of the library where the structure and foundation is sinking and moving because it was built on fill dirt.

“There are a lot of things not being done at the library simply because we’re hoping we’re not going to be in this building forever, so we don’t want to invest a ton of money into it,” said Curt Benward with the Coos Bay Library.

The idea behind the tour was to push for the city government to build a new library. It has been a goal of the city, which took a large step toward it in 2018 when it purchased a piece of property for the building next to Verger Chrysler Jeep Dodge along Ocean Boulevard.

“It’s hard for architects to give you an idea of how much it’s going to cost without a site, and it’s hard to raise money without a site. So, that was really a big first step,” Benward said.

The property was paid for with money from the Empire Urban Renewal District. However, the URD funds can’t be used to build the library, only to purchase the property.

Total cost for the new building will be almost $16 million. Based on a study done back in 2013, it was determined that it was more financially responsible to build a new library outside of the tsunami inundation zone instead of renovating the existing building.

Over the past few years the city has had two consultants look into the project. Both consultants felt that there was no way the city would be able to afford the new library without asking voters for a bond levy. Initially it was thought that there would be a significant amount of funding that could be gathered through grants, but that is not the case.

As the new library is considered, one of city council’s current priorities, they were happy to entertain were ideas that library staff had for the next steps toward building a new library at the new property.

“We were already on a time line that deemed this was necessary, in six years we could potentially reach a point where we don’t have a facility open,” council member Stephanie Kilmer said.

According to consultants and the library, the next steps would be to look into a feasibility study to determine whether a bond will pass and what size, what local donations can be raised, and formulate a grant plan. The cost would be around $10,000 to $20,000 for the feasibility study, and another $6,500 for a phone survey.

“If you wanted to do a feasibility study and a survey you would basically have to go out and get a consultant to conduct it ... If that’s something you all decided to do then the library bond could be placed on the ballot in May of 2020,” Benward said.

Before the council will take any action it will hear the library’s presentation again another time for further discussion at the next council meeting, and make a decision as to how to move forward at a subsequent meeting.

If the city stays on track for funding the new library the hope is to have the new building built and operational by 2025.

It is important to note that the library is the most visited and most utilized city building by citizens in Coos Bay. According to library staff last November there were over 20,000 visitors, and meeting rooms were in use as often as three times a day.  

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.