A new public library branch, part of Western Dakota Technical Institute’s upcoming $9.5 million expansion, will be a cohesive space that seamlessly combines academic and public uses, the project consultant said Tuesday.

“When you go into the library, it’s going to be one atmosphere,” said Debbi Waters of ForeSite, a facility consulting firm that specializes in libraries.

The library project was just one area of focus at a public information meeting Tuesday on WDTI’s expansion project and campus master plan. The core of the expansion will be a one-stop student center that consolidates WDTI’s many student services that are currently scattered on multiple floors and buildings.

“We’re busting at the seams here,” WDTI president Craig Bailey said. “This will be our fourth record semester in a row in the fall.”

The expansion and library projects are still in the preliminary design stages of translating program needs into space requirements, said Jeremy Altman, project manager for FourFront Design. The goal is to have the design completed by spring 2011 and the new, energy-efficient Rushmore building open in time for classes in fall 2012.

The $9.5 million project will be funded through three sources: $8 million will be bonded through the South Dakota Health and Education Facilities Authority, $1 million will be provided by the county for the library, and the remaining $500,000 will be raised through the institute’s foundation.

The library will be a partnership among WDTI, Rapid City Area Schools, the city of Rapid City and Pennington County, a combination that Bailey said is unprecedented.

“Nobody in the United States has done a library quite like that before,” Bailey said.

Of the estimated 13,000 square feet, about 44 percent would be dedicated to academic uses, 31 percent to typical public library uses and 25 percent to shared use, Waters said.

Features would include adult, teen and children’s collections, a reference section, law library, group study areas and 100-seat community room. The current WDTI library only has 30 seats; the new library would have closer to 230, Waters said.

Anthony Fresquez, an instructor at Oglala Lakota College and a Rapid Valley resident, said with all the expansion to the east, a public library at WDTI would be well used.

“It’s an excellent location to serve an underserved area of the city,” Fresquez said. “If I had a library here, I would bring my classes here.”

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He said he would love to see the library designed to take advantage of the views of the Black Hills in that part of town.

“People could come to the library and read and enjoy the view,” Fresquez said.

Lyle Hendrickson lives right across the street from WDTI and said if they built a public library with a “good mix” of materials, he’d be there all the time.

“We need more access to knowledge on the part of the public, not just the students,” Hendrickson said.

Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or emilie.rusch@rapidcityjournal.com.

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