Chesterton Tribune



Westchester Library system needs assessment underway

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The facilities needs assessment the Westchester Public Library Board approved at its last meeting is underway, the Board heard at its meeting last night.

Staff from CSK Architects have been conducting walk-throughs of the Thomas and Hageman branches and the Baugher Center to create an inventory of upgrades or improvements WPL should plan for in the future. The assessment will rank findings by urgency and price the improvements.

CSK is doing the assessment at a cost of $14,500, per a competitive price they offer public libraries. The Westchester Township History Museum is not part of the assessment because WPL leases it from the Duneland School Corporation; however, it was evaluated in a recent Duneland Schools facilities assessment.

Library Director Lisa Stamm reported what CSK has seen so far led them to praise WPL’s maintenance crew for stellar upkeep of the facilities. However, Stamm reported it appears an asbestos survey has never been done at WPL, and CSK recommended having one as soon as possible. Stamm said the Museum will be included in the asbestos survey, despite its exclusion from the needs assessment, and she has requested quotes from several vendors.

In other business, the Board approved removal of WPL’s Background Check Policy and Procedures because an amended Criminal History Check policy is part of the new employee handbook.

In her Librarian’s report, Stamm highlighted the new WPL scavenger hunt program--brainchild of Thomas Branch Manager Heather Chaddock. 390 people participated in scavenger hunts at both branches and the Museum, 44 of whom went to more than one location. The scavenger hunt ultimate winner nabbed a Fitbit Inspire. “We heard many compliments on the Scavenger Hunt --some said that they didn’t know there were so many different areas and materials in the Library,” Stamm said.

27,307 people visited WPL in January. 2,135 people attended 91 programs and 409 people used WPL meetings rooms, Stamm said. She added that WPL’s new online calendar software is live and working fine after some technical difficulties slowed down its planned January rollout.

Stamm updated the Board on proposed legislation Indiana Senate Bill 410, which clarifies HEA 1343, a law passed last year that gives local fiscal bodies the option to bring their respective public libraries to binding budget review if those libraries carry more than 150% of their annual budgets in reserve. Stamm said SB 410 explains how the 150% figure is to be calculated and clarifies that fiscal bodies aren’t required to take oversight, but they also have the option to reduce library budgets by up to 10% if they do.

According to the Department of Local Government Finance’s reading of HEA 1343, the Porter County Council is the fiscal body that would take oversight over WPL (despite Porter County not being one of WPL’s founding entities) because townships are not specifically mentioned in the law. Stamm said the needs assessment will be a valuable tool in explaining WPL’s plans for its reserves if the Council takes oversight.

Stamm also gave an update on WPL’s newest MLS-degreed employee, Young Adult Librarian Sionna Hartigan. The Board approved Stamm’s creation of a young adult librarian position last year, and Stamm says Hartigan is already proving her value. “I’m delighted to have her. She is fabulous, as we thought, and she’s bringing a lot of great ideas already,” Stamm said. The Board is slated to meet Hartigan at its March meeting.


Posted 2/14/2020




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