St. Pierre says new library good for the East Bank
Besides books, internet, study rooms and Nintendo will be offered
Led by the proposed 39,000-square-foot East Bank facility and plans for a new library in Des Allemands, the library system in the parish is currently undergoing a huge transformation.
The new facility has been garnering a lot of attention recently, mostly because of its $8 million cost. Many residents also seem to think that the library should just expand the current East Regional Library instead of constructing a new building. However, the size of the proposed library has to do with a requirement from B.P., which donated the land, that said that the administrative offices had to be moved to that building. Because of that, the building will be two stories, with the second floor for administrative offices and a computer room. Everything on the first floor is either public space, meeting room space or office space.
"We've been working on it for quite a while because we want to get the best library we can for our money," Library Director Mary desBordes said. "We were very pleased that two of the bids came in within our budget."
desBordes says that the lowest bid came in at about $212 a square foot, which sounds like a huge amount of money. However, desBordes says that while the amount is a lot, it is less than the library board expected.
"My understanding is that libraries in the area are now being advised to budget between $300 and $350 per square foot," desBordes said. "The aftermath of Katrina has combined with the cost of oil to raise the cost of everything, and construction has become extremely expensive."
To illustrate that fact, desBordes points to the St. Rose library, which was built between 2001 and 2003. The original budget for that project was close to $125 a square foot.
"So you can see how much the costs have gone up in five years," she said.
desBordes says that the nice thing about the proposed East Bank facility is that it has been designed to give the library spaces that they don't have at any location at this point.
For example, one of the rooms is just for children's collections, while a separate room is for children's activities. Of course, there will also be a room for young adults in addition to five individual study rooms that can be used for groups with up to five members. The proposed facility would also have a separate computer lab, which is something that none of the other locations have right now.
Though desBordes is hopeful, the project is currently tied up in the court system. When the project went out for bid, two contractors came in under that mark. However, the second lowest bidder is contesting the bid of the lowest bidder because they believe there was a problem with the bid.
The suit has been in the local court and is now at the court of appeals. desBordes says, to her knowledge, they haven't scheduled a new date for the suit.
"Until that suit is settled, I think the council is reluctant to award the contract," desBordes said. "If the court comes back and says we have to go with the second lowest bidder, then you have complications. That's the hang-up or otherwise we would have broken ground earlier."
Parish President V.J. St. Pierre recently praised the library board for their patience in dealing with the project.
"I have to admire the library board because they had a long-term plan and they are sticking to it,” St. Pierre said. “The area where they want to build the library will not only help the people on the East Bank, but it will help people living in Ashton Plantation."
The beginning of the project dates back to 1997 when the library board had a feasibility study done that recommended that a branch be built in St. Rose and that the Destrehan library be expanded. The St. Rose branch opened up in 2003.
But the board isn’t concentrating solely on the East Bank. They are currently seeking a location for a Des Allemands branch.
"We are actively seeking a location for that and the reason that the East Regional Library has priority is because at the time we instituted the program, the East Bank was growing faster," desBordes said. "The library board feels that you look at where your population growth is as to where you enlarge your services."
desBordes says that the East Regional Library project was started in 2003, and at this point, she anticipated that there would already be a building constructed in District 4.
"Circumstances just worked against us in this case," she said. "We are really still looking to provide service to that area as soon as we can."
However, not all of the library system’s transformation has to do with a couple of buildings. The library is also offering several new services that it hopes will help attract and retain those elusive parish teens.
"Traditionally, libraries lose children between third and fifth grade," desBordes said. "We'd like to keep them and bring back those that have left."
To do that, the library has already begun offering entertainment options such as Nintendo Wii and Dance Dance Revolution. There are plans to bring in Guitar Hero in the future.
The library is also considering having a film contest for teens this summer.
Still, one of the main draws to any of the libraries is their internet connectivity, which uses a filter to block sites with content that has pornography, sexuality, gambling, high bandwidth (digital media), and chat.
"You not only get on the web and do your searching and your research, but we have databases available through the library that aren't available to the general public," desBordes said. "We actually pay for special databases as well as have some that are funded through the state library."
These databases cover everything from full-text newspapers, medical databases, career information databases and children's information.
"It just covers the spectrum," desBordes said. "Our databases are evaluated databases and you can count on them to be accurate."
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