It’s Louisville’s first regional library and will be Mayor Greg Fischer’s first large capital project that has broken ground.
Fischer was joined by Third District Congressman John Yarmuth and local officials at Tuesday’s ceremony kicking off construction of the Louisville Free Public Library’s Southwest Regional facility, which will serve around 100,000 residents within the five mile radius of its location on Dixie Highway near the Pleasure Ridge Park and Valley Station neighborhoods.
The Southwest Regional Library will have double the staff and more than twice the amount of space than the building the city is currently renting in the region for around $225,000.
“All of my kids and grandkids went to the other library. It was a little small, a little tight,” says resident Jim Nacke. “Now I’ve got great grandkids that are coming on and I would like to see this in the area for them.”
The $13 million project—which included a bond worth $9.5 million, library foundation funds and a grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation—is expected to be completed by next summer. The 40,000 square foot library will be larger than the branch libraries that average 9,000 square feet, says Louisville’s library director Craig Buthod.
Louisville Public Library’s master plan includes building three regional libraries that also serve the east and southeast parts of Jefferson County. As WFPL previously reported, Councilman Jerry Miller, R-19, criticized the decision to make the Southwest Regional Library the priority library and argued that the growing population in the east should be considered.
Although the master plan includes constructing three new regional libraries, the city has not secured the funding to construct them. Fischer reiterates the budget has “a lot of stress on it,” and says a local option sales tax, which would allow residents to choose how to use that tax money but has not yet won approval from state legislators, could be one way to get the other projects funded.
“We’ll probably be struggling to do the next one in the next six to eight years because of the fiscal constraints on the budget,” Fischer says.
Further, when compared to peer cities, Louisville is “in the bottom quartile in terms of money spent per citizen in our libraries,” he says.
In 2007, Louisville voters rejected an occupational tax that would have supported construction of the three regional libraries and other branch libraries, including some renovations.