Letter To the Editor:
I know there have been some misunderstandings and confusion about the library and the old elementary school in Kasson, and I would like to do my part in clearing them up. As a note, I am neither a member of the library building committee, nor a member of the KARE organization, but a member of the Kasson-Mantorville community and a library employee and I have some understanding of the discussions that are going around regarding the future of the library.
First, we do need a larger library. We have a smaller facility than communities half our size and we have been making the best of a building that was designated as a “temporary location” nearly 20 years ago. Our shelves of books and movies are overflowing, and we have to withdraw perfectly good items simply because we don’t have room for them. Last year we had over 600 kids sign up for our summer-long reading program, and often had 60+ kids come for storytime. There was barely room for them to all sit. We have to limit or scale back planned events both for kids and adults simply because we don’t have space for them.
The City of Kasson selected the site of the old elementary school as a perfect spot for a larger library. It is centrally located and has enough space for both a building and for parking. The library building committee has been meeting with an architect for months to discuss different options for such a facility, including using the old school as it stands or constructing a new facility.
The old school is a nice-looking building from the exterior. But, as any building that has stood vacant for years, has problems. The interior is growing mold. It is full of asbestos, and water leaks have caused the floors to buckle. It has been used for police training, and garbage has been left inside.
The other issue with the school is that it does not have an ideal floor plan for a library. There are three separate parts to the school, and two levels. This means an elevator would need to be installed (at additional cost) and the hiring of more staff to keep an eye on each section of the building. Though we do need a larger facility, a city of Kasson’s size does not have the funds to rehabilitate a building in poor condition, plus maintain it with utilities and extra staffing.
The library building committee is continuing to work through the process of presenting to the city their recommendation for a library facility. One option would be to reclaim and use elements of the old school in a new building. Another option would be to use green building techniques to minimize the financial impact on our community and the carbon impact on our world. Again, this is an ongoing process, so nothing final has been decided.
Personally, as a library lover, a reader, and a parent (as well as an employee), I would rather have the city of Kasson create a new, larger, functional library that mimics and pays homage to the historic school, rather than spend more dollars in trying to rehab a nice-looking, but asbestos-filled, functionally awkward building that will end up costing the taxpayers more in the end.