Tuesday the Wichita City Council moved a step closer to making a new central library a reality by voting to fund design plans for a new building.
"When this building was built, 50 years ago, the business of libraries was very different," said Cynthia Berner Harris, Director of Libraries in Wichita.
The new central library would be located near Exploration Place in downtown Wichita.
The council approved $500,000 for the plans. The overall project is expected to cost about $30 million, which is subject to further vote. Opponents questioned the cost of the project and if it's worth it.
At the Wichita Central Library, Berner Harris says people checking good old fashioned books are still the most common. But, every day, more of you want modern digital and high tech options. That's a problem when the library is run out of a giant, concrete building built in 1967.
John Edwards sits in the library reading a book. Lamont Agee says he likes to go to the library to study because it's quiet and he can focus there. Katy O'Reilly uses the library to check out art prints to hang in her apartment. Graham Russell comes to use the internet.
From the traditional to the modern and high tech, there are plenty of people who use the Wichita central library everyday.
"I love the library," said Edwards.
"We are really a community gathering place," agreed Berner Harris.
Those who use the library know what they want.
"I do wish they would have more computer classes and stuff like that," said Edwards.
"Honestly? A coffee shop," laughs Russell.
"If they could have a large database of movies, I'd really like to be able to rent movies from them," said Zachary Byrne.
The movies the library can do. It has DVDs, BluRay and music CDs by the score. Other things the library would like to add, but can't, due to lack of room or the age of the building.
"It's certainly not a building that will let us make some of the transitions that we've talked about with the community," said Berner Harris. "In terms of really being a high tech, active, lifelong learning center."
There aren't enough outlets for personal laptops or even to add more library owned computers. Nor is there room to make the elevators big enough for all wheelchairs. The teen section, a hot spot for most libraries, is only six shelves at the central facility.
"Our children's room is so small that we can't get even one group of students in on a field trip," added Berner Harris.
She says they've checked and it would cost the same, or more, to renovate instead of building new. So, in order to get the most use out of the building and the most people using it, the library wants to move.
"Once they're here for those things," said Berner Harris, talking about the books and computers the library already offers, "they see all of the other things that we have to offer, too. And we are still a very vibrant part of the community."
Berner Harris says nationwide for every dollar a community puts into a library the community gets $4 worth of benefits. Here in Wichita, she says that's $4.30 worth. And she expects that return to increase with a new building.
Factfinder 12 shows you how people feel about public libraries around the nation.
Americans still strongly value the role of public libraries in their community, according to a Pew Research Center study. In a national poll conducted last year, 94% say having a public library improves the quality of life in a community. Eighty-one percent say libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.
And, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, visitation and circulation to public libraries stayed steady from 2001 to 2010.