Since January, design firms PGAL and 720 Design have been researching League City’s library needs and assessing residents’ desires for library use. They shared their findings and recommended solutions with the League City City Council on Oct. 22.
League City has a single library, Helen Hall Library, which takes up 29,000 square feet—the same size as when it was constructed in 1985—or 0.25 square feet per capita for League City’s population of about 106,000. The state standard for library size is 1 square foot per capita, and the average for a city of League City’s size is about 0.51, putting Helen Hall Library well behind the curve, said Maureen Arndt with 720 Design.
In addition, Helen Hall Library was built basically to be a warehouse for books before computers and other technologies became common in libraries, Arndt said. Nowadays, she added, libraries are thought of as community spaces with study rooms, collaborative areas and other amenities, and that is what League City residents indicated they want in their local library.
“Libraries have changed,” she said.
Arndt and PGAL consultant Paul Bonnette presented four recommendations for League City to help the city meet community library needs:
- Build a 42,000-square-foot west-side library by 2023; build a 42,000-square-foot east-side library and expand the west-side library 40,000 square feet by 2028; and build a new 80,000-square-foot central library by 2033. The total cost of this option is estimated at about $131.65 million.
- Build a 42,000-square-foot west side library by 2023, build a new 80,000-square-foot central library by 2028, expand the west-side library another 40,000 square feet by 2033, build an 42,000-square-foot east-side library by 2038, and expand the east-side library by 40,000 square feet by 2043. The total cost of this option is estimated at about $157.45 million.
- Build a new 122,000-square-foot central library by 2025 and expand it by 50,000 square feet by 2030. The total cost of this option is estimated at about $106.6 million.
- Build a new 170,000-square-foot central library by 2025. The total cost of this option is estimated at about $105 million.
Some council members said the decision would have to go before the voters.
“Without a referendum, that’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of lettuce,” Council Member Andy Mann said.
City Manager John Baumgartner estimated that the property tax rate per $100 valuation would increase by roughly $0.01 for every $10 million spent toward library projects. Council Member Larry Millican said if council cannot come to an agreement on what action should be taken, the study will be shelved because of the high cost alone.
Council Member Todd Kinsey said he hopes to see something on the ballot by November 2020 for voters to decide what they want done with regard to new and expanded libraries.
“We’re a growing city, and we’ve got to build to keep up with what the citizens in the community want,” he said.