The construction and pending completion of the new Spanish Fork library located on the corner of Main Street and 100 South is an event residents of Spanish Fork City look forward to with great anticipation.
The decision to build a new library was one that the mayor and city council thought about for a long time.
Scott Aylett, the Library Director, explained that the original library residents are currently using was built in the mid-1960s when the population in Spanish Fork was only about 6,000 people.
Back then, the basement of the library wasn’t finished, so there was very little usable space in the building.
In the mid-1990s, some renovations were done to the original building to turn the basement into a usable space. That took the total usable square footage from 6,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet.
Today, Aylett explained, there are an estimated 45,000 residents in Spanish Fork, and their needs have outgrown the current library building.
Residents need to have enough space for large programs, and the current building only has one program room. Additionally, the size of the current library limits the collection size, so there are fewer books available for residents to check out.
To address these shortcomings, plans were made to build a new library. Aylett stated that the mayor and city council recognized that “the library of yesterday isn’t the library of today nor is it the library of tomorrow.” He went on to explain, “Libraries historically have had a focus on circulation and having their collection for people to come in and check items out.
But over time, libraries have evolved and become more of community gathering spaces. That’s why programs are so important. And not having sufficient program space now is certainly an obstacle that we face.”
The new library will have about 4,000 square feet of program space, which is a notable improvement over the current library’s 500 square feet of program space.
The building, when completed, will have approximately 40,000 square feet of total space, but a third of it is reserved for a new city council chamber as well as a new city finance office (for utility billing, payments, and setting up utility accounts).
The rest of the square footage will be wholly dedicated to the new library. Thanks to the added space, the new library will be able to increase its collection size by approximately 30 percent more than the current library’s capacity. So, while the current library has a collection size of approximately 70,000 items, the new library will have closer to 90,000 items.
But one of the features Aylett said residents are most excited about is the highly anticipated drive-up book drop.
Currently, Spanish Fork residents have to get out of their vehicles and take their books to drop boxes located right by the library entrance. Once the new library is complete, residents will be able to drop off their books without ever leaving their vehicles.
Blalock and Partners, an architectural design studio located in Salt Lake City, designed the library with guidance from the mayor and city council as well as feedback from approximately 200 Spanish Fork residents.
Two common requests that helped inspire the new library’s final design were to include as much natural light as possible and to complement the historic look of the city office building located adjacent to the new library.
To accommodate both requests, the north side of the building (as viewed from Main Street) is being constructed with a lot of brick.
The color of the brick is complementary to the adjacent city office building. This is the side of the building where the new city council chamber and finance office will be located.
The south side of the building, where the library portion will be located, will include many large windows that let in copious amounts of natural light and deliver a more contemporary look and feel. With these two unique halves of the same building, the architecture of the new library will masterfully combine both the historic and the modern sides of Spanish Fork.
In addition to its attractive and innovative exterior, Spanish Fork residents who visit the new library will be greeted with cutting-edge technology that makes it easier than ever before to check out their selections.
The new library will feature an automated material handling system that allows patrons to put their books onto the book drop conveyer belt and have their items automatically checked into the library system and sorted into the appropriate bins. This smart technology will save library staff an estimated six to 10 hours of work each day.
Additional improvements include self-check-out stations where patrons can check items out on their own.
These stations will feature RFID technology, which allows patrons to set down an entire stack of books and the system will scan the barcodes of all of the books simultaneously. The technology will make for library experience more user-friendly for patrons and will also create efficiencies for library staff.
Aylett explained that the community response to the new library has been overwhelmingly positive. He explained, “The common feedback we’ve heard over the years is that the library is small, it doesn’t have a large collection, and they don’t have a lot of programs.”
Even residents who don’t currently visit the library are likely to be drawn to the new library.
Aylett stated that in cities where new and improved libraries have been built, the impacted communities typically see a significant increase in library usage. It’s expected that the same thing will happen in Spanish Fork.
While the library features promise to be impressive, Aylett shares that the real excitement comes from the sense of community the new library will offer.
He stated, “We’ll be able to do things in this new building that we haven’t been able to do or even dream of doing because of some of the limitations we have with the current building. We’ll be able to expand our program offerings, expand our collections, and really become a gathering place for our community because we don’t have that today. We don’t have a place where our residents can come and gather and learn together and share ideas and interests, so we’re so excited that this new building helps us achieve that part of our mission.”
The anticipated completion date for the new Spanish Fork library is fall of 2022. Construction is scheduled to begin this month, and residents are encouraged to visit the city website (spanishfork.org/departments/library/newlibrary.php) to see announcements for the ground-breaking, renderings of the building, and other related details. (Peterson is a Serve Daily contributor.)