Planning for the Future: Charette Group Considers Possibilities

The Marion Public Library Board of Trustees will soon take another step toward achieving an Imagine8 goal. The community visioning process identified a renovated or expanded library as one of the Great 8 projects. The Library Board and associated groups have been charged with raising additional funds, reviewing library expansion options and proceeding with an expansion of the library in a public-private collaboration to accomplish the “Book It” goal. 

Last year the Library Board formed a Renovation & Expansion Committee to evaluate the current facility and to specify optimal features for the look and feel of a new library. That work led to a Facility Needs Assessment. Marion needs an adaptable library designed for 21st century library services and uses that can efficiently respond to changing technologies and users over the next 20 years.

The Committee identified a number of options for expansion on sites available to the Library in the Uptown area. Public library architect-consultant, Engberg Anderson, was hired to help it conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the options. To date, the Board has made only two decisions about the expansion.

  1. The Board is committed to an Uptown location.
  2. Based on Marion’s residential and commercial growth, it plans an expansion to serve Marion’s current and anticipated library needs into the future, with the possibility of adding a north side branch as the City’s population extends in that direction.


Since April the architect-consultant has conducted three fact finding and evaluation charettes to quantify and compare the value of expansion options, and if possible, provide a recommendation to the Board. Charettes are collaborative sessions in which a diverse group of people come together to identify solutions to a design problem. Their goal is to generate wide-open discussion and new ideas. Library charette participants included Trustees, stakeholders and library users.

The group focused on the Imagine8 call for public/private collaboration and considered multiple configurations in Uptown.

The four basic options under review varied in size from a low of 43,475 square feet to a high of 47,100 square feet. The estimated cost of each per square foot varied from a low of $255 to a high of $276. The estimated total project cost of each is $12 million. Renovating and expanding the existing facility builds the smallest expansion option and does not reduce the cost of the project.

The other three options include using some combination of the existing library property as well as the 11th Street parking lot to build a new facility.  The outside of the box option envisions making efficient use of the available property by having second a second floor that crosses above 11th Street and offering views northwest toward City Square Park and south down 11th Street.

The final report of the charette process, including visualizations of the options, will be posted here next week.

The charette group chose not to determine a final recommendation for the Board regarding the options.  It did arrive at a consensus on the following items:

  1. Pursuing a mixed-used project that includes a new library facility with commercial development is desirable. Because a developer will assume the costs and risk associated with the commercial component, mixed-use options provide ancillary economic development benefits, including tax revenue that will help pay or offset library operating expenses. The commercial component likely will be a combination of retail and residential space.
  2. Renovating and expanding the current facility provides the least benefit for the cost. Options that result in a new building score significantly higher on building performance measures. They are more cost-effective and cost-beneficial than renovation.

Next Steps

There are still a number of steps involved before coming to a final decision about the library expansion. The final report of the charette outcome is in preparation and will be posted on the library website when available.

A task group has been organized to prepare a Request for Qualifications for developers to determine whether or not a mixed-use option is viable.

Then the charette group needs to make a recommendation to the Board, and the Board needs to make a recommendation to the City Council. In the meantime, the Library will plan on a community survey and informational meetings.