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Bursting Maplewood library turns to Aquinas 

The Rochester Public Library may look to Aquinas Institute to solve the cramped conditions at its Maplewood branch. It will also do an assessment of all 10 of its branch libraries -- probably over the winter -- to evaluate each's needs, says director Patricia Uttaro.

The branch study came up at a recent City Council review of the Public Library's budget, where Uttaro also talked about library funding and the need for security at the Arnett Library in the city's 19th ward. The volatility of the surrounding neighborhood has prompted Arnett to hire an unarmed, part-time security guard, Uttaro says. It's currently the only branch library with security.

Maplewood is one of the Rochester Public Library's busiest branches, largely due to an influx of refugees into the area, and the use is taking a toll on the building, Uttaro says. The foundation has shifted, which has knocked the front doors out of whack, she says. Rebar is coming out of the front steps, Uttaro says, and the walls have cracks.

The Public Library is interested in acquiring vacant property that Aquinas owns on the north side of the Maplewood branch, between a school driveway and the library, to expand Maplewood, Uttaro says.

Aquinas seems to be open to discussions, she says, so the Public Library will work with the City of Rochester's real estate division to get those talks rolling.

"All of this is just pure speculation at this point," she says. "But the long-term intention is that Maplewood will be our next library project in the branches."

The Public Library has considered relocating the Maplewood library or adding a second floor, Uttaro says, but neither option seems quite right. The library is in a good spot, she says, and adding another floor would mean hiring more staff, which is an expensive option.

Overall, the branch libraries are in pretty good shape, Uttaro says, but each building has its own needs. Charlotte needs lighting and interior work, for example, and the Wheatley library's main entrance and parking lot should be made to line up, she says. Right now you have to walk around the building to get in.

Many of the branches need upgrades to their meeting spaces, Uttaro says. She also talks about creating early learning spaces in the branches and to make better use of the Toy Library at the Lincoln branch on Joseph Avenue. Demand at the Toy Library is soaring, Uttaro says.

The Public Library will use the report from the needs assessment to help make its case to the city to fund the work, she says. A master space plan completed for the Central Library previously helped get money from the city for that library, she says.

"Having the same kind of plan for our branch libraries we hope will give us that same kind of leverage," Uttaro says.


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