Natrona County Public Library Seeks New Building
Public libraries offer a plethora of services that are free for the public to participate in, and because these entities are not preoccupied with making a profit, receiving adequate funding and support can be incredibly taxing for library officials.
Having a public library strive to continue providing services while juggling budgetary concerns isn’t new by any means. Plenty of libraries and the staff dedicated to maintaining these locations are expected to do so without expressing any dissatisfaction, even in light of dismal conditions.
One library that has been pursuing potential improvements for over a decade now is Natrona County’s Public Library in Wyoming.
Keep reading to learn more about the current challenges the library, its staff, and its thousands of patrons are facing, and why director Lisa Scroggins is pushing hard for the new building this library sorely needs.
Natrona County Public Library’s Current Needs
In early May of this year, the director of Natrona County’s Public Library, Lisa Scroggins, spoke to the Board of County Commissioners about the long-term issues that library staff and patrons have had to contend with at the facility’s current location.
The library has experienced electrical issues, trouble with the HVAC system, plumbing issues, and more. Despite the fact that several small additions have been made to the space throughout the years, Scroggins pointed out that these additions have not included any major repairs, restorations, or refurbishments for at least a couple of decades.
Because the building that houses the library is so old, many of the issues cannot be fixed through simple repairs. For one, the pipes that have become so corroded that they’re disintegrating couldn’t be replaced by a typical plumber due to their being installed through concrete.
In addition, the restrooms designed for the public to use have plumbing components that are so outdated that it’s proven difficult for repair professionals to even locate replacement parts.
The building itself is full of areas that aren’t up to ADA codes, as well as areas that need updated fire suppression systems.
Scroggins added that the building’s design presents issues regarding safety, security, and space availability. She noted that, despite being a public library nestled in one of Wyoming’s largest cities, the Natrona County Public Library lacks both a study room and reading room, and houses only one programming room with two programming departments.
All of this isn’t due to a lack of interest or participation from the public. In fact, according to 2016’s needs assessment, the library surpassed national averages by a significant margin in terms of the programs offered and the attendees who took part in these events.
Additional challenges emerge when considering the typical turnout of library patrons, as both Casper and Natrona County residents frequent this single library. As a result of having only one space to offer, library staff often have to turn down requests from local nonprofits and other organizations that need space for their events.
A Closer Look at Attendance
To add perspective to the library’s need for extra space, Scroggins explained that in an average month, the Natrona County Public Library sees over 24,000 patrons. So far this year, the library has served over 200,000 visitors.
Scroggins added that in the Natrona County area, the library receives visitor numbers that only trail behind the local event center and the county’s massive retailers like Walmart.
An Ongoing Issue
This isn’t the only time that Natrona County’s Public Library officials have expressed the need for a larger space. In both 2008 and 2012, a proposal was voted upon, which would have used a tax program to fund the construction of a new library building. However, these proposals were both voted against.
Commissioner Dallas Laird mentioned these past two voting sessions to voice his concerns regarding whether the public would even want a new library.
In response, Scroggins pointed out that the votes were against the funding method that was proposed, not so much against the idea of a new library itself. On top of that, these voting sessions were conducted roughly ten and fifteen years ago, and sentiments may have largely changed since then.
The Potential Funding Solution
Even if the public still expressed disinterest in funding a new library with resident tax dollars, Scroggins also suggested a possible workaround for securing library funding without this measure being taken.
Each state receives federal grant money in participation with a program that funds capital projects, and reasonably, $12.6 million of Wyoming’s funding could be set aside for library building construction.
In an attempt to provide ideas for adequate solutions, Scroggins also stated that the Natrona County Public Library Foundation has ownership of a land parcel nestled in the downtown corridor. While it might be an ideal location for a new library, Scroggins added that the new library could also be constructed outside of the downtown area.
The downtown area would be ideal for hosting the site of the new library building, being that it would be located in a convenient, central location. However, at this point, the Natrona County Public Library is in such dire need of a new facility that the staff are likely far more focused on having their list of needs not only heard, but understood. The library’s new location is secondary to the struggles that community-minded library officials have faced when trying to get the request considered as an option.
Why Public Libraries Matter
Even if you’re not a Wyoming resident, the challenges that Natrona County’s Public Library has been operating under for far too long should matter to everyone. Every citizen across the US stands to benefit from robust library systems that provide their area’s residents with access to services they’d otherwise not have. Well-funded libraries housed in safe, compliant buildings are a must for the benefit of both current and future generations of Americans.
Libraries provide the populace with free access to a wealth of information covering practically any topic imaginable. They do more for the communities they serve than the average citizen may realize, but a library’s worth is immeasurable.
Director Lisa Scroggins and library officials like her are doing everything in their power to keep libraries a haven for people looking to broaden their minds, perform work for the community, and lead progress. As it stands, and always has, libraries make so many of the programs and other amenities we take for granted possible, and as collective communities, we should all be invested in the security of our local libraries.
To get involved with library progress, take time to visit your local library, attend events, take part in library-provided programs, and keep yourself informed about how the library in your community is operating. Much of the time, public advocacy is an important part of securing the permanent placement of libraries in our society.