It’s time to start letting the world know: the West Des Moines Public Library at 4000 Mills Civic Parkway will be renovated in the next fiscal year, with the work scheduled to start this coming fall, probably in late October or early November. All timelines are tentative for now, but I wanted to share some facts that the community might want to know.

Background

The current library building opened to the public in 1996, when it was a combination city hall/library. In 2003, city government offices moved out when the current city hall was finished. At that time, walls were removed or painted and new carpet laid. Since then, the library has not undergone any major cosmetic reworking. Here’s what we plan to do in the next year and a half:

  • Update the paint scheme in the library, repairing cracks, holes and dents in the wall as we go;
  • Update the carpet, using patterns and colors to make it easier to differentiate one department of the library from another;
  • Add a dedicated Young Adult/teen area on the first floor. Most of it will be where the library cafe’ space used to be. The Friends Foundation is generously supporting this effort by donating half of the cost of construction;
  • Add more study and conference space;
  • Install new public furnishings;
  • Install new cubicles and workspaces for library staff; the office furniture in the building is 1996 original vintage.

Teens/Young Adults will have their own place to enjoy the library. (Courtesy: Studio Melee.)

Downsides

Because the library will be staying in place and open for business during the renovation, the project is being divided into phases and parts of the building will be closed off as the construction crews work. This means that while the work is going on, there will be noise and vibration that might make the library less study-friendly than one would hope. On top of that, large portions of the collection will be in storage and we’ll have to re-arrange what’s left in the building. We’ll be making decisions about what to leave in the building based on past usage: materials that seem to get the most use will stay, materials that get less frequent use will be stored. While our collection is partially in storage, we’ll have to rely on inter-library loan to fill in the gaps.

Also, our private study rooms will be unavailable during the first part of the renovation and small groups won’t really have their own gathering spaces. We plan to use the current Millie Knee Classroom on the second floor as a sort of communal study hall for people looking for a quiet place to work (we’ve even discussed putting a white noise machine in the room to help drown out any ambient construction noise).

From what I’ve been told so far, the work will take all of 2020 and should be done in early 2021. That’s a long time, and we will have to ask for West Des Moines’ patience as it’s happening, but I’m confident the results will be worth the wait.

Feel free to contact me at darryl.eschete@wdm.iowa.gov with any questions or concerns. More information will be posted here as the project gets closer and begins.