Library plans $59M in new branches, upgrades

Glendale Library
The Glendale branch of the Indianapolis Public Library system is expected to move to a new building nearby when it's completed.

Indianapolis library leaders want to issue close to $59 million in debt over the next six years to renovate, relocate and build entirely new branches across the city.

The Indianapolis Public Library is emphasizing physical space even as readers increasingly shift toward digital media, but CEO Jackie Nytes said people are using library buildings as much as ever. “We’re not seeing reductions in door counts,” she said.

Residents are flocking to libraries for high-speed Internet access, tutoring sessions and small-group meetings, Nytes said. “I think that people are looking for opportunities for informal education,” she said.

The library is asking the City-County Council to vote on a single proposal authorizing $58.55 million in debt, but the borrowing will happen through a series of bond issues over the next six years.

Nytes hopes to get City-County Council approval this fall, in time to borrow $4.76 million and kick off improvements at multiple branches. The branches in line for renovations are East Washington Street, Lawrence, Southport, Warren Township and Wayne Township.

The plan also calls for replacing branch buildings in Martindale-Brightwood, Glendale, Pike Township and the area near West 38th Street at Lafayette Road. The library would add a second branch in Lawrence Township at Fort Harrison and build a new branch in Perry Township, filling a gap between the southeast side and Southport.

Library officials have not acquired real estate for the planned projects. (See details of the plan for each location below.)

Under the plan outlined by accounting firm H.J. Umbaugh and Associates, library officials think they can issue the debt without raising the tax rate, which is 13.7 cents per $100 of assessed value this year. If the library didn’t issue new debt, debt-service payments would end after 2022, and the levy likely would decline.

The issuance of new debt, along with outstanding debt, means the library would have to tap cash reserves in its debt-service fund to cover all its payments in 2019. The total payment that year would be more than $13 million, compared with $10 million this year, according to Umbaugh’s projection.

After the peak year, the library’s payments would decline each year, hitting $8 million by 2023 and staying at that level for the next five years.

Library statistics show that use is on the rise. The library reported 4.3 million patron visits in 2013, a 1-percent increase over the prior year. Computer use hit 1.1 million session-hours, a 8.5-percent increase.

Circulation rose 3.1 percent to 15.9 million items. Books still account for the majority of material in circulation at 64 percent. Free downloads of eBooks grew 43 percent, from 350,099 to 501,155.

Here are details on branch construction projects planned:

— Brightwood, 15,000-square-foot building on 4 acres, to replace Brightwood branch, $5.95 million, 2016.

— Eagle Branch, 20,100-square-foot building on 5 acres, to replace Eagle branch, $7.66 million, 2016.

— Perry Township, 25,000-square-foot building on 6 acres near the center of Perry Township, new branch, $9.42 million, 2018.

— Michigan Road, 20,000-square-foot building on 4 acres near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Michigan Road, to replace Flanner House Branch, $7.65 million, 2018.

— Fort Benjamin Harrison, 25,000 square-foot building on 5 acres, new branch, $9.69 million, 2019.

— Glendale, 25,000-square-foot building on 6 acres, to replace Glendale branch, $10.22 million, 2020.•

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