Politics & Government

Higher tech, better furniture coming to new library after fundraising beats goal

The new Wichita Advance Learning  library is located near the corner of McLean and Second St. and is slated to open in June.
The new Wichita Advance Learning library is located near the corner of McLean and Second St. and is slated to open in June. The Wichita Eagle

Patrons of Wichita's new Advanced Learning Library will have access to more technology and educational programs — and get to sit on better furniture — after fund-raising efforts exceeded expectations, library foundation officials said Thursday.

The campaign by the Wichita Public Library Foundation raised $8.8 million, 10 percent over the goal of $8 million, foundation Chairman Don Barry said.

That money has been added to the $30 million the city earmarked for the library, which will replace the aged downtown library next door to the Century II performing arts center.

Tom Borrego, president and CEO of the foundation, said the extra $800,000 will go to enhancements that weren't in the general budget for the new library that's under construction at 711 W. 2nd St.

"It's partly improvements, it's partly (expansion of) things that need to be in there anyway like technology," Borrego said. "A large amount of the extra funding that's coming in will support that (and) enhancements to the type of furniture we selected. The teen area's going to have some very specific types of seating that they will like."

Cynthia Berner, director of the city library system, said the biggest boon from the fund-raising effort was that it added 10,000 square feet to the building for children's programming and local history sections.

The unexpected $800,000 "lets us do some extra things, and it lets us improve the quality or the quantity of some of the other things (that were already planned), because it stretches what would otherwise be available in the project budget," Berner said "Today we're working on a portable stage for the conference center room meeting spaces."

The campaign was necessary to bolster the money that City Hall committed for a new library in 2007, Barry said.

The 2008 recession put the project on hold and it would have had to have been scaled back by the time the city could afford to start construction, he said.

"What $30 million would buy 10 years ago is a lot different than what $30 million will buy now," he said.

The library is tentatively scheduled to open in mid-June, but Berner said she hopes to actually have it running a little earlier than that.

Dion Lefler; 316-268-6527, @DionKansas