Operating Today’s Library in Yesterday’s Building—January29, 2010
Let me be perfectly clear up front: this article is in no way intended to be my pitch for a new or remodeled library building as the headline may suggest. This is my third and final article on New Year's resolutions for the library. Thus far I've talked about our collections and programs, and now it's time to focus on the building that houses our collections and services.
In digging through old documents and blueprints and proposed remodeling projects for the library, I discovered an interesting theme: the current building was built to be a warehouse of books. This was certainly a correct strategy for a building designed and built in the 1960's; no one could have imagined how drastically technology, especially the internet, would change way libraries do business. Even in 1992, during a proposed remodel, we projected we would own 185,000 items by 2010. Current recommendations suggest that number should now be closer to 142,000. The shift is in how people use information, use technology and want to interact with others. The modern library is not about books, but about people, as I have said before. Technically speaking, 142,000 items fits within our current walls and square footage, but it doesn't leave room for people.
I certainly don't want to come out and say we don't need a new library building. I practically hyperventilate at the thought of the programs and collections and services we could provide at a higher quality with a facility designed for modern library practices. And I admire communities who take pride in their new library buildings as if they are demonstrating via architecture their community's commitment to quality of life. I am, however, thoroughly convinced that there are things we could be doing right now to improve our current facility and make it more attractive, inviting and functional. Modern libraries that focus on people, rather than being a warehouse, have attractive seating areas, adequate lighting for browsing and shelving that is not so high as to be intimidating or dangerous. These libraries have places for both teenagers to congregate and learners to study. They have good, functional and flexible furniture for computer workstations. They make efficient use of staff work areas to maximize areas for the public use.
Members of the Library Board and I have started a list of projects, both big and small, that would update the current building and make the facility more inviting. It takes a little creativity and a willingness to experiment to find solutions to some of our current constraints. My resolution to the community is that we will always do the best we can to create an inviting environment and maximize the space given to us, no matter what four walls surround us.
If you have suggestions and comments on the building, or any of my previous resolutions, please email me or call the library at 461-2348.