BY FAIMON A. ROBERTS III
Advocate staff writer
August 07, 2012
Public demand is driving East Baton Rouge Parish’s library system to evolve, its co-directors told the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday.
With a new Main Library and three new branches in construction or design phases, libraries will be a place where the public can hold meetings, take classes or enjoy the view from a third-floor terrace, Mary Stein and Patricia Husband said.
In addition, the librarians are purchasing increasing numbers of e-books in response to demand and being more judicious in the purchase of print materials, Stein said.
She stressed, however, that the library would still be a place where someone could check out a book.
“We are not throwing books away,” Stein said. “But e-media is the big thing.”
To that end, the library was working on an app for iPhone users, Stein said.
“We have been denied three times by Apple,” she said. Once Apple accepts the app, then one for other smartphones, such as those running Google’s Android operating system, will be developed.
The parish library system’s operating budget is about $34 million.
2013 should be a big year for new branches, Stein said.
The Fairwood branch library on Old Hammond Highway should be completed late this year and ready to be opened next year, Stein said. The new Main Library, which will more than double the size of the current building on Goodwood Boulevard, could be ready for librarians to start moving in late next summer, she said.
The new Main Library will have a third-floor terrace that will be open to the public, Stein said.
When the new Main Library is completed, the current facility will be demolished and made into a parking lot, she said.
Design of the Rouzan branch library off Perkins Road near College Drive is complete, but construction has not yet begun, while officials wait for additional “permits and information,” Stein said.
The $19-million River Center Branch library downtown is in the early months of the design phase, Stein said. Focus group meetings will be held later this year to discuss features of the new facility, she said.
Stein said she hopes a new director will be in place when the focus groups are held.
On Saturday, an ad hoc committee composed of three members of the Library Board of Control unanimously voted to invite only one of five semifinalist candidates for the director position to Baton Rouge for an on-site interview.
The candidate, E. Spencer Watts, the director of the Mobile (Ala.) Public Library, will be in Baton Rouge with his wife Aug. 17 and Aug. 18, Stein told the Press Club.
Watts will make a short presentation at a reception at the Jones Creek Regional Branch Library at 7 p.m. Aug. 17, she said.
The Library Board of Control will interview Watts during a public meeting on the morning of Aug. 18, she said.
The Metro Council’s rejection of a request to increase the salary scale of the library director’s position affected the search, Stein said.
The minimum salary would have gone from $72,388 to $115,000 and the maximum salary would have gone from $100,202 to $160,000 under the proposed increase.
“Some people did not bother to apply and others withdrew” because of the issue, Stein said. “It’s not just about the salary, but that’s an important issue.”