Jim Purgerson’s letter of March 9 argues that the East Baton Rouge Parish Library should not lease a temporary space during the construction of a new River Center Branch Library.
Unfortunately, Mr. Purgerson’s opinions appear to be based on incomplete information.
While the library will be paying $175,000 a year for the space, these costs will be offset by operational savings from vacating the larger facility. Reduced expenses for utilities, maintenance, staffing and collection development will save over $300,000 per year, which will more than cover the cost for the lease.
Furthermore, Mr. Purgerson is mistaken in thinking the cost of the minor renovations required to ready the leased space will be an additional expense for the library. That cost is covered by the property owner.
It also was suggested that arrangements could be made to divert visitors to the Carver Branch, a smaller neighborhood branch that already is heavily used, and at peak demand hours it is frequently operating at, or very near, capacity.
While this branch can help provide service to some of the displaced library users from downtown, it cannot consistently take on a substantial increase.
Mr. Purgerson also feels there should be a revived discussion about the construction of a new facility.
Review of the merits of new construction versus remodeling was the subject of multiple studies and extensive debate several years ago.
The decision was made to build a new facility, and funding and contracts were authorized for this purpose.
The Library Board considered a number of factors very carefully before deciding to pursue a temporary site while the old River Center Branch is demolished.
Construction of the new building will extend for more than two years. Mr. Purgerson is correct in saying that more than 92,000 people visited this branch last year.
The library is committed to providing a temporary public service site that can meet many of these citizens’ basic informational, reading and technology needs, particularly since the rental rate can be offset by operational savings.
Establishing a temporary branch is the same option we would strive to achieve for any of our libraries facing such an extensive, prolonged closure.