News

Siloam Springs seeks feedback on new library plans

The Siloam Springs Public Library held two meetings this week to hear what the community wants in a library.

The need for a new library building is not a new issue.

“We’ve been really intent [on getting a new building] for the past ten years,” said Sandy Luetjen, director of marketing and community service for the city of Siloam Springs.

Many locals believe the project is long overdue.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said freshman Alex King. “The one they have is really crowded.”

Last summer alone, the library’s summer reading program registered 400 kids.

“It’s almost doubled from last year,” said Laura Flynn, board member of Friends of the Siloam Springs Library and storytime volunteer.

A significant segment of the community attended the meetings, including small business owners, retirees, public school teachers and both former and current University professors. In addition, there was a large representation of librarians and members of Friends of the Siloam Springs Library.

Only a couple of students came to represent the University.

The project’s two architects, local Matt Pearson and Jeff Scherer of Minneapolis, hosted the meeting.

Scherer is from the firm MS&R, and specializes in library architecture. He is chair of the building committee for the American Library Association. Scherer said he always encourages a community meeting when designing a new library.

“I hope what we end up providing is what citizens want,” he said.
Pearson (’85), a University grad and the men’s cross country coach, is glad to see a new building program in motion.

“[A library] is more than just a repository for books. It’s a community center. It’s a picture of who we are,” Pearson said.

At the meeting, librarians and locals alike expressed the need for more space in the library.

“There’s not much room to do stuff,” said Ben Davis, age 12.

Ideas for the expanded library included study space, areas specifically for children and teens, meeting rooms, and special event spaces.

Attendees also suggested more and better technology.

Librarians hope to make the library more welcoming to university students as well.

Grace Davis, president of Friends of the Siloam Springs Library, said that the library could be a “third space,” a neutral environment separate from both home and work for adults and students alike.

While the community is mostly supportive of the new library, there is one large concern.

“My biggest fear is the cost of it,” said J.W. Smith, Commander of American Legion Post 29. “But it’s past due,” he added.

Scherer dismisses monetary concerns, citing the story of a town in Iowa with a population of 4,000 that raised $12 million for their library.

“If you’re building the right thing…the money will be there,” Scherer said. Despite negligible student interest, librarians and architects still want to hear from JBU students. A suggestion box will be at the library until October 5th.

In addition, students are encouraged to email their ideas for the architects to jeffrey@msrltd.com.