Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

I. General Questions
II. Site Questions
III. Construction Questions
IV. Financial Questions
V. Appendix: Library Statistics

I. General Questions

Q. Why does the Library need to expand?

A. The population that the Library serves has increased 38% since the library’s last expansion, and the number of people using the library annually has risen 66%.

Library use continues to rise, and the service area population will nearly double within 15 years, according to US Census estimates, and the current library is already too small, by Division of Libraries standards, for our existing population.

The current library has been carefully assessed and cannot be efficiently expanded without major added costs, and parking would remain a critical problem.
Construction of a new Library will allow us to meet member demands for additional children’s programs, an expanded range of computer and technology classes, a secluded reading room, a teen area, and more meeting rooms and seating space. The new Library will have significantly more parking to accommodate library visitors.

Q. How do you determine when expansion of the Library is needed?

A. Based on growing usage of the Library, current and projected demographic and housing projections for the library service area, and general library trends in the United States, the Board was tasked with evaluating the ability of the current facility to appropriately serve our community for the next 30 years. The Board approached this task using the recommendations and standards set by the Delaware Division of Libraries (DDL) and the expressed needs and desires of our members and the service area.

A Needs Assessment was conducted by Buck Simpers Architect + Associates in the summer of 2010 as part of a statewide effort to improve library service in Delaware. The Needs Assessment found that the existing building “can no longer accommodate the extensive public use and parking is inadequate. These deficiencies adversely impact functionality of the building, flexibility, expansion opportunities and use as a public facility.”

The DDL goal for library size is one square foot for every resident within the service area, to provide adequate space to serve a range of community needs. Currently, the Lewes Library is 14,600 square feet in size vs. a service area population of 17,073. Within 20 years, our service area population is expected to grow to over 30,000.

Q. How has Library use changed since the last expansion?

A. While population has increased 38%, the number of Library cardholders has increased 79%: the Library now has nearly 13,000 members. 145,000 visits were made to the Library in the past year, a 66% increase, and 180,000 items were checked out, a 65% increase. The Library’s book collection has increased in size by 28%, and Internet use has nearly tripled.
The Library’s range of programs has grown massively since the last expansion: in 2002, 12 programs were offered for adults. In 2013, 351 were offered. Children’s programs have increased from 205 to 328, with attendance increasing 73% to 8,711. Literary, technological, financial, and arts programming gives the community access to the information they desire, whether for education or entertainment.

A Day at the Library


  • 12,234 people in service area
  • 280 visitors (85,000 per year)
  • Average less than one program (205 per year)
  • 350 items checked out (110,000 per year)
  • 20 Computer users (6,000 per year)


  • 17,073 people in service area
  • 500 visitors (150,000 per year)
  • Average 2 programs (675 per year)
  • 600 items checked out (182,000 per year)
  • 55 Computer users (17,000 per year)
  • ~1 meeting hosted (225 per year)

Q. What is the current status of the Lewes Public Library with regard to capacity?

A. Library programs and public access computers, as well as the parking lot, are routinely full. The staff/work areas are far beyond capacity. Our 5 full time and 10 part-time staff members work in a space that was designed for 4 people. More than 80 volunteers also work all day, every day, in this work area. Current computer usage averages 75% of capacity, with the Library routinely over capacity in the mornings, leading to waiting lists and opportunity lost for our patrons. Summer usage is well above capacity, and the Library is forced to shorten computer sessions to 30 minutes from June through August.

The Library frequently runs into difficulty scheduling meeting room space, whether for library events or community use, and children’s programs during summer draw attendance in excess of the capacity of the large meeting room. The Delaware Room does not have capacity for the Library’s historical holdings, and there is no space to serve the community’s teen population.
The Library surveyed our members in the spring and summer of 2010, receiving over 450 responses. Our members expressed interest in computer classes, a secluded reading room, tutor rooms, more adult programs, more story-times, and teen programs to name a few. By expanding our square footage, we will be better prepared to accommodate our members’ demands. The spatial matrix included in the Needs Assessment calls for a computer training room, a designated children’s program room, a room for the area’s teens, and significant expansion to the Library in seating space and computers.
The number of available parking spaces is already significantly less than the recommended number. Our Library, now at 14,600 sq.ft., should have 73 parking spaces to meet the State’s goal of 1 space per 200 square feet. Currently, we have 41 public spaces, 4 of which are handicap reserved. Parking space is critical in the mornings, during the summer, and whenever a program is occurring. Population growth in the area must also be taken into account when considering library parking over the next three decades.

Q. How will new technologies impact the required size of future libraries? Won’t fewer books be needed?

A. Over the past decade, the more new technologies are introduced, the more people are using libraries. Growing uses include:

  • Access to library-owned technology
  • Training in new tools and uses for technology
  • Preparation for new and changing careers through job center open labs
  • Access to deeper and broader information

The future of the book is difficult to predict, but the hard copy is far from slowing down. More than 140,000 print books are checked out of the Library each year, and the Library now circulates more books monthly than it did annually thirty years ago.
Technological advances have made possible the online catalog and rapid statewide lending, giving our patrons access to over one million titles, obtainable, at no cost, in a few days.

Other technologies have driven growth in libraries. Demand for technological skills in the workforce, as well as daily life, creates a need in our community for training in the use of hardware and software, from basic usage skills to Web browsing and the use of applications like Microsoft Office. As new applications, platforms, and devices roll out faster, the need for continued learning will only become increasingly vital.

The Library has expanded the range of ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, online language learning, and educational resources, allowing our members to use our services whether on site or at home, driving demand for other library services and training classes.
The Library also provides the only freely accessible computers in the area, allowing those in our community who cannot afford their own computers to research matters vital in their lives, keep in touch with family and friends, and search and apply for jobs online .

Q. How do you determine how many computers are needed?

DDL has been the driving force behind the growth and modernization of libraries in the state. In 2005, DDL produced a comprehensive plan entitled Twenty Years Forward: Statewide Library Services and Construction Infrastructure for Delaware Libraries. Among the recommendations for 2025, the plan states each library should have one computer for every 20 library visits per day.

In 2013, the Lewes Public Library averaged 500 visitors per day, with 13 computers available for patrons. It is expected the new library will initially generate 600 visits per day, and usage will continue to grow with the area’s population.

The floor plan for the new library includes 47 public computers: 35 are readily available and 12 computers in the training room will be made available when programs are not in session. The addition of 4 laptops available for checkout brings the total to 51. If necessary in the future, the building’s infrastructure allows for the addition of up to 78 workstations without the need for structural modification.

The largest part of growth in Internet use at the library has been from people bringing their own devices, and wireless will be available throughout the building. The array of seating areas provides a wide range of environments – table seating, lounge seating, counter seating, café seating, and private rooms – to accommodate users.

Q. What comprises the Lewes Library service area?

A. The Delaware Division of Libraries uses a formula which designates service areas for all of the libraries in the State. Our service area consists of a region including the City of Lewes, the Greater Lewes Area, and extends six miles from the Library on Rte. 9, Rte. 24 and up Rte. 1 to Broadkill Beach. This area included 17,073 people in the 2010 Census, and is expected to grow to more than 30,000 people by 2030.

The Lewes Library has 12,875 card-holders. Of these, 59% reside within the 19958 zip code, and another 28% come from neighboring zip codes. The remaining 13% include second property owners and visitors from out of town.

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II. Site Questions

Q. How was the site selected?

A. Following an April 19, 2010 presentation by the Library Board and BSA+A regarding expansion at the current site, the Lewes Parks and Recreation Commission recommended to City Council that Library expansion not intrude into Stango Park, leading the Library to consider other site options within and outside of the city. The Library at this time began to evaluate several vacant parcels in the Lewes area, including land owned by Beebe Hospital, the Cape Henlopen School District, the adjacent Thompson property, the Warrington property between Savannah Road and Kings Highway, and the Five Points property.
Several considered properties were either not for sale or too large – as was the case with the 5.6-acre Thompson property – for the Library’s needs. After consideration of potential properties, a team of resident volunteers was assembled in June 2011 to evaluate six potential sites. This Site Evaluation Committee considered the sites’ parking potential, accessibility, visibility by passers-by, views distant and close, and the building “fit” into the fabric of the community. The committee gave its highest scores to the current site and the Five Points site.
While the Board deliberated between these two sites, considering the site evaluations and the cost of each project, the possibility of new construction on the Thompson property re-emerged in January 2012, as part of a larger project including a trailhead for the Rails with Trails network linking Rehoboth Beach, Lewes and Georgetown.
 After considering a portion of this larger parcel – offering further expansion in the decades ahead – and collaboration with the City of Lewes, the Greater Lewes Foundation, and state agencies involved in the multi-use Rails with Trails network, the Board selected the Thompson site on March 13, 2012.

Thompson Property


Q. How was the land acquisition funded?

A. The anticipated breakdown of funds used for land acquisition is:

  • City of Lewes: $960,000
  • Lewes Public Library: $620,000
  • Delaware Division of Libraries: $620,000
  • DNREC: $250,000
  • Anonymous Donation: $50,000

The final City contribution will be determined by the amounts of actual state funds received and any additional funds from donations and foundations not included in the estimate above. Regardless of the totals received from outside sources, this acquisition has incorporated measures that will protect Lewes taxpayers.

The City’s share of land acquisition funds will be raised from the sale of three residential lots on Burton Ave. To meet the December 31, 2012 target for acquisition, the City borrowed funds from the Lewes Board of Public Works under a 24-month agreement in which the City will pay interest to the BPW at the same rate the BPW receives on invested funds. Funds from the Delaware Division of Libraries are part of the FY14 Bond Bill.

The breakdown of funds at the time of settlement was:

  • City of Lewes (loan from BPW): $2,150,000
  • Lewes Public Library: $300,000
  • Anonymous Donation: $50,000

Q. Will the Library use the entire property?

A. No. For a 28,500 square foot building and parking, the Library will need 3.5 acres. The building’s footprint itself will take up roughly 10% of the parcel.

Q. What else is planned for the Thompson property?

A. The City of Lewes approved a Master Plan for the public lands that encompass the former Thompson property, the Library’s current location, and Stango Park. Approximately 1.2 acres of the recently acquired property will be dedicated to outdoor recreation, in the form of a trailhead serving the Georgetown-Lewes Rails with Trails project, the Junction-Breakwater Trail, and Gordons Pond Trail.

Q. How will the property be accessed?

A. A rail crossing on Adams Avenue will be the primary entrance to the complex. There will also be an entrance off Monroe Avenue.

Q. What will happen to the current facility?

A. The Library’s current facility is owned by the City. Future use of the current building is still to be determined, including possible use by non-profits, lease of space for continuing education, or other options. A major factor in the decision regarding the future of this building rests with the ability of the City to fund operational expenses, or for the tenant to contribute in part or in whole to these expenses. As these costs will increase in the future, this decision becomes a significant one in terms of the long-term financial impact.

Q. What about just fixing up the current building?

A. In its review of the current facility, the Needs Assessment had two relevant findings. First, that “due to the residential nature of construction of the existing building, the second floor is not suitable for support of the increased weight load commensurate with the addition of collection stack area” Secondly, that “a catalog of major upgrades necessary throughout all systems (is) necessary to bring the building into compliance to the standards essential in a public/municipal building.” Performing these renovations, exclusive of any addition, would cost close to a million dollars.

Expansion would also necessitate a temporary location for the Library during 18 months of construction, intrusion into Stango Park, and permanent increases in staffing measures to manage spreading core library services between two floors. If population and usage trends continue, the Library would be constrained from further expansion without taking over Stango Park in totality.

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III. Construction Questions

Q. How is the library being designed?

The Board of Commissioners decided the most effective process for developing the new library design would be through a Design Committee. The objectives of the Board were to identify a diverse team comprised of members who individually have a design expertise or experience and, as a group, were representative of the service area’s diverse demographic makeup. The board’s directives to the design committee were that:

The Lewes Public Library should offer a welcoming, functional, state-of-the-art facility to promote and enhance a diverse community and foster a love for learning. The building should offer a flexible layout in support of the on-going programs and goals of the Lewes Public Library.

The Library solicited for members of the public to join a Design Committee in March 2013, and the committee convened on April 5 to guide the design stages of the building process. The committee members are:

  • Christine Besche, City of Lewes Parks & Recreation Commissioner, Stango Park;
  • Kristen Baker, Library Assistant Director;
  • Ned Butera, Library Board Vice President;
  • Jackie Finer, Founding President, Greater Lewes Community Village;
  • Ed Goyda, Library Director;
  • Tom Hall, Project Manager;
  • Brenda Jones, Architectural Designer, founding member of City of Lewes Historic Preservation Committee;
  • Ingrid Miller, Biblion Bookstore employee, mother of 3 young adults, 20+ year Library patron and volunteer;
  • Maureen Miller, Library Children’s Librarian;
  • Don Matzkin, Architect and Educator;
  • Candace Vessella, Friends of Lewes Library President;
  • Barbara Warnell, Interior Space Planning and Design, City of Lewes Historical Preservation Commission, Lewes Historical Society Board Member.

This committee has worked in collaboration with Becker Morgan Group to create a pleasing and functional design for the new library. All Design Committee meetings are open to the public and posted to the library’s website.

Q. What will the new Library look like?

A. The new Library will be 28,500 gross square feet, and will include significant expansions of space for technology, children’s services, seating and meeting space, and the Delaware Room. The new Library will also include dedicated space for computer classes, teen services, and the Friends of the Library.

The final schematic was presented to the public in a series of four open meetings and to the Lewes City Council in October 2013.

Floor Plan
(click for large)

The new Library exterior has been designed to reflect Lewes’ heritage. The Design Committee worked with the Architects to provide insight on the Lewes community, to aid in a design in harmony with the neighborhood and streetscape, and enhance the property and the gateway to Lewes.

Exterior View
(click for other views)

Space Existing Sq. Footage Designed Sq. Footage
Circulation Desk 150 667
Administration 2,195 3,251
Public Restrooms 175 541
Computers & Technology 400 733
Friends of LPL 100 585
Periodicals 280 248
Entry Lobby 200 478
Adult Collections & Seating 3,550 8,647
Children’s Area 1,550 2,823
Delaware Collection 384 557
Young Adult 0 1,026
Conference Area, Training, & Tutoring Rooms 2,430 4,081
Storage, Mechanical, Etc. 775 1,553
Circulation Factor 2,438 1,514
Total Net Square Footage 14,627 26,704

IV. Financial Questions

Q. Who pays for Library building construction or expansion costs when that is needed?

A. The State of Delaware pays 50% of any building construction or expansion costs and 50% of the appraised value of land acquisition through annual bond bills, with the balance required as a match from private donations.
We are seeking some additional state funds and $3.6 million in private donations to cover the balance, as shown below:

Delaware Division of Libraries $ 5,350,000
Private Donations $ 4,550,200
Additional state funding $    724,800
Sussex County $      25,000
USDA—Rural Development $      50,000
Total $10,442,800

To date, the project has been approved for $3.75 million in funding from the state, with remaining funds in the FY 16 Bond Bill.

Q. What sort of progress is the campaign making?

A. We are in the quiet phase now, where we are seeking support from major donors. The campaign has generated over $3 million from private gifts. A majority of those gifts have come from donors who live in the service area but outside the City of Lewes. The campaign’s objective is to give every resident in the service area the opportunity to participate and support the new library.

Q. How will the City benefit from this new community asset?

A. A valuable community asset will be retained and enhanced—a free, public library within walking/biking distance for all City residents in a new, technologically-advanced, flexible, efficient and attractive facility and an essential town amenity enhanced for the next 50 years.

From an economic perspective, the Library will attract and support new residents, and the Library and trailhead will bring in many new visitors, all of whom will contribute to the economic vitality of Lewes.

The more than doubling in meeting space will also provide the City and local organizations with a much-needed new resource to share information, address local issues, and create important new projects and programs.

Exciting programs for children and new services for teens will help ensure a literate and well educated next generation.

Q. What is the timetable for construction of the new Library?

A. The project was bid in October 2014, and construction began at the beginning of 2015. The building will be completed in April 2016.

Q. How will the existing Library be used?

A. City officials are exploring various possibilities. They would prefer it be used for non-profit purposes to benefit the community.

Q. Who pays for the Library operating costs?

A.  We receive operating support from the following sources:

  • Sussex County – 47%
  • Dividends/Income from Endowment – 10%
  • Private donations – 21.5%
  • Delaware Division of Libraries – 14%
  • City of Lewes – 7.5% (building maintenance & utilities, given in-kind)

The Delaware Division of Libraries also pays for all of the library’s technology, including public and staff PCs, other hardware, management software, online databases, and a 100 Mbps data connection – an in-kind contribution valued at over $100,000.

Of our annual private donations, 73% come from donors who live within the 19958 zip code.

While the Library is an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit, we report to the Delaware and Sussex County Divisions of Libraries as part of the statewide library system. The Library’s service must meet the Delaware Public Library Standards and Guidelines, and the state and county contribute more than 60% of operating revenues.

Q. Will the operating costs of the new Library increase?

A. Only very slightly, thanks to the extraordinary help provided to the Library by its Friends group and volunteers, and because the new building will be on one-story with a clear view for staff. More modern operating efficiencies are also being built into the new building.

Q. What are the next steps in the process?

A. Richard Y. Johnson & Son, Inc. is the construction manager for the project. Construction is underway, and it is expected to be completed in April 2016.

The Design Committee will continue to meet through the completion of construction to advise on the project. Information on the Design Committee’s meetings and recommendations is posted on the Library’s Campaign Web site.

DelDOT has committed to the engineering and construction of a trailhead on the new property. DDL and DelDOT are providing engineering, design, and construction assistance for the complex. DNREC and DDL are partners in the acquisition of the property.

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V. Appendix: Library Statistics

Attendance Circulation

The number of items checked out of the library annually has increased 65%, from 110,975 to 182,901. The number of library visits has increased 66%, from 86,721 to 144,087. Library membership has increased 79%, from 7,212 to 12,875.

Internet Use Collection

Library Internet use has increased 183%, from 5,980 to 16,924. The library’s collection has grown 28%, from 42,185 to 54,127.

Adult Programs Adult Program Attendance
Children's Programs Children's Program Attendance

The number of adult programs offered annually has increased 2,825%, from 12 to 351, and attendance has increased 654%, from 417 to 3,145. The number of children’s programs offered annually has increased 60%, from 205 to 328, and attendance has increased 73%, from 5,043 to 8,711.

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