On Centre: Centre Region | New Schlow Library parking system won’t go into effect until January

November 14, 2013 

The Schlow Centre Region Library parking lot reopened Thursday, ahead of schedule, but patrons don’t have to worry about the new validation system just yet.

While the new technology was installed this week, it won’t go live until Jan. 6, to allow for extensive testing of the software and equipment.

When staff flips the switch to on, library patrons still will park for free during Schlow’s open hours, as long as they validate a ticket on the way into the library and on the way out.

Failure to do so will result in a $20 parking penalty fee.

After hours, anyone can park in the lot for $1 per hour, and payment will be by credit card only. If visitors don’t move their vehicles by the time the library opens, they will, again, face a $20 fee.

“This is similar to a system we had in the first four years,” said Schlow Director Cathi Alloway.

This time, though, it allows for public parking after hours.

That will bring in some revenue for Schlow, though Alloway doesn’t yet know how much. She originally budgeted $2,000 for 2014, but elected officials bumped it to nearly $5,000, believing that’s what Schlow will get.

A new LED-lit sign will help notify visitors to “library parking only,” “parking available, credit card only,” and when the lot is “full.”

Alloway and her staff and board considered the move for quite awhile, after the old technology failed and staff policed the parking lot to make sure patrons had a safe space to park and get to the library.

The new system cost $92,000, more than the original $80,000. Last fall, Alloway rebid the project when the first price quote came in over $100,000. The bid for the current system is the only one Schlow received, and staff went for it, delaying other capital improvements.

“It was important to have a working parking system again,” Alloway said.

Now, staff will spend the coming weeks ensuring that everything works properly.

“I have every reason to believe that this will be more reliable equipment,” Alloway said.

And, while visitors don’t have to worry about it in 2014, the new system allows Schlow the option to charge for library parking.

Alloway said that a potential move would be to offer two hours free and charge patrons for additional time.

“I don’t want to do it, but we need the options,” she said.

State funding cuts continue to plague Schlow and other libraries. Even with the additional revenue, Schlow is budgeted for a week-long closure in 2014 to save money, and the Centre County Libraries recently announced the closing of the East Penns Valley branch.

Jessica VanderKolk writes this weekly column featuring news from the Centre Region. Contact her at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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