Library board eyes hiring site selection consultant

The East Baton Rouge Parish library board is exploring hiring a private firm to help it select a site for the long-delayed south branch library.

After discussing the proposed library branch for more than two hours during a rare Saturday morning meeting, board members instructed library system staff to evaluate the costs and options for hiring a site selection consultant.

The board characterized the move as a signal that, after six years, the project will be moving forward.

“We need to move forward and we need some assistance in doing that,” board member Kizzy Payton said.

Board chairman Travis Woodard said he hopes the board will be able to select a consultant at its January meeting. The hiring also must be approved by the Metro Council.

“With the growth in this area, the longer we wait, there will be less and less raw ground available with more people trying to get in there,” Woodard said. “There’s not going to be more of it 10 years from now. It will be that much less affordable and there will be even fewer options.”

The library has been proposed to serve a loosely defined area that stretches from Essen Lane on the east to Stanford Avenue to the west, and from Perkins Road on the north down to the river at its south.

The board previously had been in talks with Rouzan developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa about locating the new branch in his residential development off Perkins Road but backed off those plans in recent months.

During their meeting Saturday, board members discussed several options for the library — including whether one is needed in the southwest portion of the parish.

Library director Spencer Watts said the system hasn’t met goals for the amount of library space in the parish, and the community has been promised a branch in that area.

“I think we do need this,” he said. “This promise needs to be kept as part of our long-range plan.”

Recently, the board had considered renting space in the area temporarily, but members were cool to that idea Saturday.

“I feel like leasing is almost throwing away our money,” Payton said. “We could end up paying millions that we could have put toward the actual final location.”

The board also discussed the potential need — because of the high cost of land in the area —to build a taller library on a smaller footprint.

“In many parts of this service area, multi-story construction would fit the character of the land, even though that’s not what we’d typically do for neighborhood library,” Woodard said.