Will Pinney Library last another year?

Will Pinney Library last another year?
One of Madison's busiest branches, Pinney Library is in “keeping afloat mode," according to Sarah Lawton.

While more than a few inches of rain can flood this east-side library branch, the Mayor’s budget does not include relocating Pinney Library.

The Friends of Pinney Library and the Madison Public Library Foundation were disappointed the relocation could be delayed another year, after Mayor Paul Soglin announced the 2016 capital budget. In 2014, Royster Corners on Cottage Grove Road was approved as the new home for the community library. According to the Madison Public Library Foundation, moving Pinney Library is a $2.5 million campaign.

Alder David Ahrens has been vocal, as community members have expressed their concerns to him.

“The fact that the mayor put this on the back burner for another year shows where our priorities are,” Alder Ahrens said.

Pinney Library is the third busiest of Madison’s nine libraries, according to Madison Public Library’s website. The new site would double the size of the current location.

According to Sarah Lawton, Neighborhood Library Supervisor for Pinney and Monroe Street, the developer of Royster Corners, Ruedebusch Development and Construction, has signed a letter of intent, but they have not guaranteed the space will still be available if the project is delayed.

“Certainly the developer would not have a responsibility to wait for us. We have to be respectful to their time frame,” Lawton said.

President of the Friends of Pinney Library Liz Dannenbaum said, “[Ahrens] has been very proactive and concerned and is working hard to help get this deal settled.”

Presently, the Pinney Library struggles to maintain their small space. Lawton listed several problems that can occur in the library when there are more than a few inches of rain or melted snow. Additional facility issues include inefficient heating and cooling, negative environmental impacts, floods, roof leaks and sewage problems.

While they are working with the landlord to address these issues as they occur, the library does not have the budget for so many malfunctions. Lawton described their current state as “keeping afloat mode.” Pinney Library pays the highest rent in Madison, making it difficult to pay for the necessary repairs.

Dannenbaum is still hopeful there won’t be a delay.

“I think it would also impact the fundraising that’s going on right now. We’re able to capitalize on all this excitement and raise funds because people saw this as a project that’s moving along steadily,” she said.

Ahrens said he personally is not a fundraiser but sees the delay as a setback for those who are.

“It’s very hard to do fundraising for something that is going to take place two years from now. People can’t sort of wrap their heads around it and visualize it,” he said.

The Madison Public Library Foundation has held events to raise funds outside of the city government. Last month, they raised a few thousand dollars at their Harvest Moon Fest, according to Ahrens. Most fundraising, however, comes from businesses, and the delay makes this harder.

“[Fundraising] becomes a little more difficult. They want some certainty of where the money is going,” Ahrens said.

Meanwhile, the library has been using technology to get feedback from citizens about specific community needs at the library, as a precursor to the design stage. They hope that these suggestions from the community will have the chance to be implemented this year.

“I think that the east side neighborhoods would be tremendously disappointed. It is going to be bigger, it will have room for innovative children’s programs, there will be more meeting room space for community group,” Dannenbaum said.

While the budget presently indicates a delay, Lawton points out that she, personally, is not worried.

“We really are working in partnership with the city to make sure that this project moves forward. We feel like there is a lot of support with this project and we are very appreciative of the city for making the libraries a priority,” Lawton said.

The final vote on the budget will occur in mid-November and will determine whether the Pinney Library will begin construction at its new home this year.