Aurora library seeks tax increase for improvements

Updated 3/27/2012 9:54 PM

Aurora Public Library officials have big plans for improvements to the entire library system.

Kiosks at schools and other locations for easily requesting electronic materials, family computer labs with toys to keep kids entertained while parents conduct business online, and quicker availability of materials all are part of the library's vision.

But library board members admit, when they began presenting those plans to city officials who could approve or deny a request for a tax increase and $30 million in bond funding, they focused too much on changes that only would affect the main library downtown.

"When we first started looking at this, it was all about downtown," library board member John Savage told the city council's finance committee Tuesday. "We need to really have a vision for more than just the downtown library."

The vision as presented Tuesday includes a focus on technology, two additional satellite locations and a $27 million new building downtown at the southwest corner of River and Benton streets.

"It has to be focused on technology, and as we developed our plan for this project, that really was a focus," Savage said. "Our end goal is to be the most cutting-edge library in the entire nation."

Placing kiosks at schools and other locations, at a cost of $2,300 each, would help residents download materials to e-readers without coming to a library, or request books be sent to the branch most convenient to them.

The library also has plans to improve its identification system of materials so 95 percent of items patrons request to be transferred to a different branch arrive at their destination in four business hours, Savage said.

While the library is beginning to seek grants and raise funds to support its plans, the projects can't move forward without $30 million in bond funding, which would be provided by an increase in taxes levied by the city. The additional taxes would cost the owner of a home valued at $180,000 an average of $26.40 more a year for 30 years.

If the city council approves the tax increase and sale of bonds, Savage said the library would immediately begin work on improvements to the Eola Road and West branches to make sure all Aurorans notice an upgrade in service.

"We know that it is not an easy task to ask for a tax increase," Savage said. "We take that very seriously in this economy."

The library's request first would have to gain finance committee approval, which could come at a special meeting Tuesday, April 3, at 4 p.m. in city hall.

Alderman-at-Large Bob O'Connor, who leads the finance committee, said he supports the library's plans. But he said the specifics of the bond request need more discussion before being forwarded to the full city council.

"Everything is interrelated, and for the future of library services, we need to have that understanding of all components," O'Connor said.

Library director Eva Luckinbill said the library has a significant need for more space and improved technology as she and Savage asked for the committee's support.

"This is something that is going to touch the entire community and is going to change the entire community," Savage said. "I hope you'll be supportive of this."

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