A message from Paula Brehm-Heeger, the Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Library Director

In 2018, Hamilton County voters generously approved a 1mil levy, a portion of which will be used to fund much needed deferred maintenance, renovations, and expansions for our county-wide Public Library system. These funds will be distributed in annual allotments from 2019 – 2028.

To ensure that these funds are put to maximum use, we spent 2019 working on our Facility Master Plan. The scope of this year-long planning process included identifying a vision for future services, evaluating facilities, determining community needs through an extensive engagement process, designing a system strategy, and recommending improvement projects.

Following the direction of the Library Board of Trustees to have an inclusive and transparent process, over 90 meetings took place including Community Listening Sessions at every Branch Library as well as advisory groups, workshops, focus groups, surveys, and more. Over 3,000 community members, stakeholders, and staff members contributed to the plan development through their participation in these activities.

The resulting Facility Master Plan will serve as a roadmap to our Building the Next Generation Library initiative, providing the Library with recommendations and a strategic direction for upgrading our facilities over the next 10 years.

The Facility Master Plan, opens a new window (FMP) is compiled into three parts:

  • Part I, opens a new window is the Executive Summary and Facility Master Plan which includes the FMP’s overall recommendations. It was released on December 11.  
  • Part II, opens a new window is the branch libraries and Downtown Main Library Recommendation Summaries. This was released on January 7. 
  • Part III, opens a new window is the Implementation Strategy, which includes sequencing and estimated costs. This was also released on January 7. 

The FMP proposes improvements at all locations ranging from smaller Strategic Investments that will provide low cost, high impact improvements, to moderate Capital Maintenance projects, to larger Design Projects.  All 40 branches and the Downtown Main Library will receive improvements of some nature over the next 10 years.  Readers will not find closures or consolidation recommendations in this 10-year plan.

We will hit the ground running and our first projects beginning in 2020 are: 

  • Three Design Projects: renovate and expand the Price Hill and Walnut Hills branches and also start work on reconfiguring the Vine St. entrance to the Downtown Main Library to make it a more welcoming and safe space.
  • A Capital Maintenance Project at Elmwood Place which will provide new carpet, furniture, and paint.
  • A Strategic Investment at Reading to upgrade technology, starting with the installation of a laptop kiosk.

Part I of the FMP identified a capital facility need in the range of $300M - $350M in today’s dollars; however, the plan recommends projects limited to the funds available from the 2018 levy. These projects include $120M-$130M in Design Projects; $20M - $25M in Capital Maintenance projects; and approximately $2M in Strategic Investments. A total of $98M is projected to be available in the first five years, and Part I identifies the initial projects anticipated to launch through 2023. The balance of projects and funding will be conditional on continued funding streams including state and local funding.

This impressive FMP should be seen as a framework that is intended to set clear directions, yet also must be adaptable. New opportunities and constraints will likely emerge as this plan is implemented, particularly as the Library seeks additional land and partnerships for expansions or relocations when new input is gathered as projects proceed through planning and design. External factors, such as any unfortunate drops in funding might arise. Individual project size and improvement strategy may be changed to achieve the overall planning zone and system-wide goals.

We are committed to continuing community engagement throughout the process. Hearing directly from community members helps us ensure that we’re meeting the changing needs of our users and community members. Already themes that emerged from our Community Listening sessions, opens a new window and Focus Group, opens a new window work are clear in the fabric of our FMP and will be an essential element in guiding our work over the next 10 years.

Thank you to everyone in the community who helped shape the FMP, especially those who attended Community Listening Sessions, participated in one of our surveys, and, of course, the members of the Community Advisory Council, opens a new window. Please be sure to keep up to date as we begin Building the Next Generation Library by visiting chpl.org/NextGenerationLibrary/, opens a new window.