West Baton Rouge library director asks Port Allen council to abandon part of a road for library expansion _lowres

 

The Port Allen City Council is considering a request to abandon a portion of Michigan Street near La. 1 to help pave the way for an expansion of the West Baton Rouge Parish Library.

Getting the city to close off Michigan Street from through-traffic between Eighth Street and North Alexander Avenue would allow the library to build a covered crosswalk between its existing building and a proposed new structure on the tract of undeveloped land between the library and the Port Allen Fire Station.

“We’re on step five of a 100-step process,” Library Director Beth Vandersteen told the council during committee meetings Wednesday night. “We have a lot more steps before we get any brick and mortar there.”

In an interview earlier Wednesday, Vandersteen said plans have already been drawn up to build an 8,200-square-foot facility to store materials from the library’s outreach services to local schools and child care centers, garage space for the library’s Book Mobile and outreach van, and a bigger public meeting room.

The new building would also provide additional work space for the eight employees of the library’s outreach services.

“What you see when you walk in the front door of the library is fine, but the back of the building that the public doesn’t see is jam-packed,” Vandersteen said. “We’re fortunate people are using the library so much. But if we could expand, it would allow us to provide much more services to the public.”

Vandersteen did not have any cost estimates for the project yet but said the library intends to use about $700,000 in revenue it has accumulated over the past 50 years.

The West Baton Rouge Parish Library had nearly 59,000 visitors last year — twice the population of the parish, she said. And it hosted 283 community programs in 2015 that nearly 9,000 people attended.

The council is expected to take up Vandersteen’s request at its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“If they don’t approve it, it’s not a deal breaker … it would just makes things run smoother,” Vandersteen said. “We would feel safer having people going back and forth across the street if there wasn’t traffic passing through.”

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.