Baraboo library unveils expansion options

February 23, 2019

Three options for expanding Baraboo’s library have key attributes in common: All would give the bustling facility more space and amenities for users and staff.

On Wednesday, the library unveiled three designs for adding onto its historic Fourth Avenue building. The 1903 Carnegie library hasn’t been renovated since 1982 and lacks adequate program areas, private study rooms, seating and staff space. The Library Board acquired a neighboring property allowing for expansion to the east.

“It’s definitely in need,” said architect Carter Arndt of MSA Professional Services, a Baraboo firm that partnered with Quinn Evans Architects to develop the designs.

Dozens of patrons and library leaders attended two open houses, where they were asked to choose their favorite option and make comments. “This building is the people’s library,” library director Jessica Bergin said. “We invited the public to come in, take a look at the drawings, and weigh in on how they think features of these preliminary plans will work.”

All three plans would preserve the existing library and upgrade its lighting, insulation and mechanical systems. One option dubbed the Promenade would put the entire library on one level, with underground parking beneath. The addition would be built to the north in what is now a parking lot.

Another option, the Beacon, is a two-story design that would expand the library to the north and east and create a plaza. A third, the Downtown, is another two-story design that would expand the library to the east, featuring an open atrium designed to showcase programs going on inside in hopes of attracting downtown visitors.

“We think of the library as an anchor to downtown Baraboo,” Arndt said.

Quinn Evans architect Ann Dilcher said involving users in the design process accomplishes two goals: Generating publicity about the coming changes and collecting critical input. Patrons sometimes think of things architects miss. “The best idea wins,” Dilcher said.

The design phase marks a significant step in a long march to expand Baraboo’s library. Pushed back by other big-ticket city projects in recent years, it’s slated to get $10 million in city funds in 2021. Library leaders, who have $1 million set aside in an expansion fund, estimate the project will cost $8 million to $11 million.

Regardless of which option moves forward, or whether aspects of all three are incorporated in the final design, the expanded library will feature areas for youth and adult programs, a break room for staff and more seating for patrons. The library serves nearly 10,000 card holders and other users who visit the library a total of nearly 3,000 times each week. Last year’s 847 programs drew 21,000 people despite the library having only one program room.

“This is a library that does great programs,” Dilcher said.

The final design also will emphasize energy efficiency and sustainability. “The board has made a commitment to make the building as clean-energy as we can,” Library Board member Beth Persche said.

Architects will incorporate suggestions made by library decision makers and patrons to develop one of the conceptual drawings into a schematic design. In April, that design will be presented to the public and decision makers for further comment. Based on that input, architects will create a refined design to be presented to the Common Council in May.