NEW PALESTINE — Carol Gunn wants her library to have lots of handicapped parking.
Debbie Bledsoe envisions big throw pillows on the floor of the children’s department.
Caralee Griffith, who works with senior citizens, would like to see programs that appeal to people of all ages.
The three women were among about 15 area residents who gathered at the local fire station to give input this week about what features they’d like to have at the new Sugar Creek branch of the Hancock County Public Library, from charging stations for smartphones to bike racks for residents using nearby trails.
Representatives from KRM Architecture, the firm hired to design the new branch, asked those who attended the first informational session to imagine themselves five years in the future and writing a postcard about the library, which officials bought land for last year, to a friend.
Library officials say community suggestions will figure into their plans going forward; no specific timeline has been announced for building on the land half a mile west of the current branch, 5087 U.S. 52, but library leaders say they’ve outgrown their location.
The design for a new library will draw from three sets of requirements — what the community wants, what the staff needs and what the library’s board of trustees envisions, said KRM Architecture principal architect Mike Montgomery.
Gunn, of New Palestine, drew on her family’s experience when describing upgrades she feels would make the library more accessible.
Her grandson has special needs, she told the group; she suggested a sensory room for children needing a quiet place away and open spaces where a wheelchair could easily fit.
She was glad to see library officials seeking public input.
Harlan Smith, library board member, said library officials have long sought to find another option for the New Palestine-area library because of a lack of parking and programming space, and because the library doesn’t own the building where the branch is currently located.
The board has weighed building a new branch or renovating the existing facility that serves the county’s west side for years; in 2010, the library made preliminary plans to move forward with a $985,000 renovation but later scrapped the effort, citing the still-unstable economy.
The library system in July 2016 purchased a five-acre piece of land from Justus Property Management for $700,000 from the library system’s rainy day fund.
Library officials plan to keep construction costs of the new facility below $2 million to avoid taking the decision to the public for a referendum vote. Smith said the public should expect the library to use cash on hand, its rainy day fund and its Library Improvement Reserve Fund for construction costs, which have not been determined yet.
Montgomery was encouraged by the turnout, noting the company has worked on 40 libraries statewide but find different communities have different needs.
“The people that were here were really engaged, and they had unique ideas that were specific to New Palestine,” he said.
If you go
The Hancock County Public Library will hold one more informational session to get community input on the design of the new Sugar Creek branch of the library. The event will be held 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 18 at Sugar Creek Fire Department Station 45, 3545 S. County Road 600W, New Palestine.