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Library to close on former Payless Cashways building

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Springfield-Greene County Library will close on a deal to purchase the former Payless Cashways building on South Campbell Avenue Aug. 27, said library Executive Director Annie Busch.

The library is hoping to create a "destination library" with the renovation of the 73,500-square-foot building, Busch said. The project has a basic cost of $5.3 million, but could cost up to $6.5 million, depending on how fund- raising efforts go and what features are included. Both figures include the cost of purchasing the building.

"We're working with the basic project cost of $5.3 million, and we're going to fund raise for the 'icing on the cake' type developments for the new center. We've got an opportunity to make this something really special and to do it right as we're doing it, so we really want to take advantage of that opportunity," Busch said.

Financing for the project will come from the sale of two of the library's buildings: the Kickapoo Prairie Branch and the Cavalier Center. Both buildings are now listed for sale with R.B. Murray Company. The Kickapoo building is listed for $1.85 million and the Cavalier Center for about $500,000, Busch said. The rest of the cost of purchasing and renovating the new building will be borrowed through a public building corporation, and some fund raising will go toward some special features in the new building.

"We like for the funds raised by the Friends of the Library to be used in a way that is very visible to the public," she said.

For example, the Friends of the Library has renovated the children's areas in each of the library branches. The Friends of the Library raises the largest portion of the group's funds at its annual book sale, held each April.

The library's board of trustees selected Sapp Design Associates as the architect for the project. Sapp Design has designed Willard's Central Elementary School and City Utilites' Electric Dispatch Facility, among other projects.

The new library will provide many services the library system has been unable to offer because of space constraints, Busch said. The library has seen a tremendous need for an expansion of its computer space.

"What we would like to do in the new facility is have enough space devoted to computers so that we can have formal training classes, yet still have lab space available," Busch said.

More meeting-room space is also needed, Busch said, as well as a public auditorium space. A small-business reference center is also something the library would like to develop in its new center, Busch said.

"We would like to have one-stop shopping for small-business people in the area, where they could find the resources they need all in one place in a small-business corporate library," Busch said.

In addition, the library is hoping to have a cafe and gift shop and "a good use of outdoor space," Busch said. The cafe portion will be bid out to a private vendor, she added.

Most of the renovation to the building will be on its interior, and the library will take public comment and suggestions for the new center, Busch said. It will also post photographs of the renovation's progress on its web site.

The Springfield-Greene County Library is funded mostly by a local property tax, which is 21 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which accounts for about 90 percent of the library's income. State aid represents about 2 percent of its income, and federal income, which is provided on a competitive grant basis, represents about .02 percent of the library's income.

Miscellaneous income from fines, out-of-county charges, interest and fund raising represents about 8 percent of the library's income. The library is governed by a policy-making board of nine members; five are appointed by the mayor of Springfield, and four are appointed by the county commission.

This opportunity, which Busch said "literally fell in our lap," was what the library needed to expand its facilities to keep up with the community's needs.

"There is tremendous potential with this project. This is really an investment for the citizens of Greene County," Busch said. She added that the library will not be concentrating all of its energy on this project.

"We know there are other needs in the community, and we plan to address those, too, but this is the time for us to develop something this area can be really proud of," Busch said.

The library is also planning a new branch in Fair Grove.

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