Library upgrade faces cuts

Plans to spend nearly $30 million reshaping Dunedin's library service over the next six years will be slashed in half if a proposal to be considered by the Dunedin City Council this week is accepted.

A staff report to be presented to this week's 2011-12 pre-draft annual plan hearings recommends reducing planned capital spending on the city's libraries from $29.6 million to $14.5 million.

The change would mean plans for a full-scale $20 million redevelopment of the Dunedin City Library in Moray Pl would be scaled back to a $4 million refurbishment, the report by council library services manager Bernie Hawke said.

Initial planning work would be brought forward to begin in the 2011-12 financial year, but the bulk of the refurbishment would be carried out and completed in 2013-14, Mr Hawke told the Otago Daily Times.

A plan to spend $10 million building a new branch library in South Dunedin would proceed under the proposal, with funding in stages from 2014-15 and the facility completed in 2016-17.

The South Dunedin library had been repeatedly requested since St Kilda's amalgamation with the city in 1989 and would help ease pressure on the central city branch, Mr Hawke said.

No final decision had yet been made on a site.

The central city library, which opened in 1981, houses 643,670 books and other items on four public floors, a function centre, two staff floors and book stacks in the building's basement areas.

However, the building's interior had become "tired and dated", with inadequate toilets, disabled access and carpet in places, and was in need of a major refurbishment, Mr Hawke's report said.

The redevelopment originally proposed would have involved a major internal redevelopment of the building, including converting the basement into a public space and moving the public entrance from the library plaza to Moray Pl, he said.

The reduced spending would still allow for essential improvements to the library, his report said.

That would include installing a covered escalator where existing stairs from Moray Pl to the library's plaza were, and a lift for disability access.

The refurbishment also allowed for repainting, recarpeting and improved layouts, improved use of technology and other initiatives.

Mr Hawke was confident the rejigged plan would still improve the facility's public spaces, appearance and functionality, but "some of the structural inefficiencies in the building would remain".

The report will be considered at the 2011-12 pre-draft annual plan hearing beginning tomorrow.


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