Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Library Planning Update: Citizen Input Wanted!

Bellingham Public Library is the

...Power of Information...Discovery of Ideas...Joy of Reading!
A quick Google search on the Internet found this information on a kid's website:

"Benjamin Franklin - Librarian

Books were very expensive during my time and therefore not everyone was able to afford them. Some fellow printers and I, known as the Leather Apron Club (because most of us wore leather aprons) discussed ways we could help the community. Through my suggestion, we started a lending library that was open to everyone. We would pool our money and buy books, which people could borrow.

So, in 1731, the first lending library in America opened. Soon, other towns began to imitate the library, until reading became fashionable even among the less educated."
In addition to helping found our country, it was also good old Ben Franklin who conceived the idea of public libraries!

Founded by Franklin in 1731, The Library Company of Philadelphia still functions to this day.

Old Ben and the other founders chose as their motto a Latin phrase which roughly translates as
"To support the common good is divine."

That idea still resonates as the basis for providing free public libraries that allow all citizens access to the knowledge which is so necessary to sustain our form of government!
"If the nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be." - Thomas Jefferson

Back on August 28, 2007 my blog, 'Accentuating the Positive: Qualities to Reflect in Library Design', briefly summarized the process that is being used to better define our future needs in library facilities.

It also contained some ideas I think might help reflect some essential characteristics of Bellingham.

Since then much has been happening!

So today, here's an update on the important public outreach that the City and its excellent consultant team, led by Thomas Hacker Architects, are now undertaking.

Last night, the Bellingham Public Library -and its Board of Trustees- held a second Open House in the City Council Chambers, one object of which was to introduce those attending -plus the BTV10 audience- to new concepts now being used in modern Libraries.

But, the main objective was to get direct feedback on what a new Library should contain or provide from the 60 or so people that attended this event.

Like the previous Open House on October 9, this one was televised for later airing on BTV10.

Both the initial presentation and the feedback from citizens were televised, but in between, the group split into eight work groups.
Four specific questions were asked of each group:

• How do you use the Library?

• What works and what doesn't work at the existing Library?

• What services & features would you like to see in a new Library?

• What questions would you like to see answered in this process?
Obtaining answers to these questions from the citizens attending was the main purpose -and product- of this meeting.

There were some pretty comprehensive lists developed!

The entire audience participated and was split at random, into work groups that were selected by the individuals themselves.

While there was much in common between the eight responses, there were also some very interesting and even unique concepts that were expressed.

All of this valuable feedback provides excellent input for the consultant team, which is trying to determine what needs should be addressed in defining what a new Library facility should contain and provide.

The lists of answers were verbally summarized from flip charts by each group's spokesperson.
This part was also visually recorded for BTV10.

Written information from the eight lists will also be captured and posted on the Library website for reference.

The energy in the room last night was very positive, and I think the consulting team sensed that.

This 'programming' phase of the new Library is critical, because it is the step that describes what functions are needed, and are most desired by citizens.

These ideas, plus those received from earlier meetings, will be incorporated into a Statement of Needs, which -along with associated costs- will reflect the Library of the future that our community requires and can support.
The earlier October 9 meetings also produced several pages of ideas from participants, captured into these seven categories:

• Site/Landscape

• Community Spaces

• Collections

• Operations/Service

• Technology

• Interior Environment

• Spirit of the Place

Can you think of something that may not already be on one of these lists?

I've reproduced below the ideas from the October 9 meetings for the first category - 'Site/Landscape'.

I will consider printing ideas from the other lists in later blogs.

Check out the BTV10 schedule, and the Library website for more information:

And while you're at it, take the short Library Survey - online!

It only takes a minute or two to answer, but the answers are important.

List of ideas from the October 9 'Site/Landscape' category:

Site/Landscape: Bring exterior into interior. Consider public space extension of the library. Welcoming public space with seating, possible outdoor seating for cafĂ©. Outdoor seating. Inviting, comfortable, inspiring. Inviting, pedestrian friendly higher priority than “architectural statement.” Accessible, inviting entrance. Striking architecture to look at. Striking, functional design. A destination, vibrant. Welcoming to all community members. Secure, safe feeling. Public gathering space that can serve community events, concerts, plays, meetings, etc... Interactive (public art, vendors, programming) gathering space. Program public space at the same time as library space. Flexibility in use of space. Active ground floor with private sector opportunities. Performance area. Incorporation of art; sculpture, fountain, amphitheater. Band shell/ gazebo on library lawn. Embrace Bellingham history, Native American culture, and the Arts. Peaceful, quiet book reading and contemplative space. Place for children; kid friendly, playground, children’s garden connected to children’s area. Green space. Native landscaping and materials. Landscape that celebrates the Pacific Northwest, the sun, rain, and wind. Low water use landscape with a few beautiful focal points. Limited maintenance landscaping. Lush landscaping. Mix of hardscape and green space. Remembering the fountain. Oriented to south sun. Open space/plaza to south Main entrance to the south. Civic Center/Library should be a park. Complimentary to civic center uses. At grade entry, level with Grand Ave. Locate building closer to City Hall. Close off Lottie St., remove paving. Easy to approach by car, bicycle, bus, and on foot. Place for bikes, roller blades, strollers. Covered bicycle racks. Bus stop on block. Place for bus drop off. Easy delivery access for outreach and movement of materials. Drive through book drop. Drive through pick-up area. Underground parking. On-grade parking. Lots of parking. Plaza in front of City Hall. Park area serving the entire CBD and arts district. Connection to CBD. Connection to City Hall. Connection to Children’s Museum and Art Museum; Grand Ave. and alley. Develop alley leading to children’s museum as a people space. Opportunity for connection of Children’s Museum to Children’s Library. Potential to extend waterfront and old town development up towards town.
"A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy... a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-James Madison, Author of the U.S Constitution and 4th President of the United States