Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Accentuating the Positive: Qualities to Reflect in Library Design

Today's Herald reported that contract negotiations are underway with an architectural firm from Portland, OR to help determine our library needs for the next 50 years or more.

Thomas Hacker Architects, in partnership with Bellingham’s RMC Architects, was selected for this important consulting assignment, which is to combine their technical expertise with input from our community, to better define our future needs in library facilities.

Bellingham Public Library is one of the most loved -and used- facilities around.
The BPL's Director, Staff and Board of Trustees should all be commended for achieving and sustaining such extraordinary efficiency in the use of an aging and undersized building! We must be close to maxing it out, if we're not there already .

And, these folks should also be also thanked for their dedication to 'getting it right the first time' in their lengthy, careful deliberations toward developing the best plan possible for the future.

This assignment takes the next logical step toward describing what functions are needed, and most desired by citizens, so these ideas can be incorporated into a set of plans that can more accurately describe our Library of the future.

As this work proceeds, here are a few ideas that came to mind:
Many cities consider themselves special, but in the case of Bellingham, people from other places do as well. That is why upwards of 15 national magazines have rated Bellingham in various 'Top 10 Best Places' lists.

The following is a list of 'unusual' qualities I think Bellingham seems to exemplify. Maybe there are others that folks can suggest as well?

When the time comes for us to conceive of the qualities we want in our new Public Library, these might also serve as some of those to be reflected in both its purpose and design.

1. Unusual degree of public interest in civic affairs. [citizen input expected, meeting spaces important, people gathering places valued]

2. Unusual level of Public Library usage. [Nationally, we rank in the top 3 cities of similar size for items in circulation]

3. Unusual commitment to 'Green' practices. [Rated #1 in US in % green power usage, adopted Green Building LEEDS policy for all public buildings, local emphasis on sustainable practices, recycling, buying local, preserving habitat and open space, desire to set standards for quality]

4. Unusual focus on children & healthy family activities. [schools, sports, culture, healthy habits, community events, civic organizations]

5. Unusual emphasis on value & efficiency of municipal facilities, and maximizing their usage. [Civic Sports Complex, Parks & Trail network, Alternate transportation, City Hall, City Web Site, BTV10]

6. Unusual need for state-of-the-art Audio/Visual Systems to facilitate good information exchange, provide easy public access to issues, and local government.

7. Unusual capacity for discerning inherent qualities of general utility, simplicity, harmony with natural surroundings & beauty. [Architecture that resonates, Emphasis on green landscape]

8. Unusual concentration of Civic buildings, Cultural facilities, Network of transit & trails near our Bellingham Public Library's central facility.

9. Unusual tolerance for a range of weather conditions, indoor/outdoor events, diversity of interests. [designing indoor space to reflect nature with lighting, ventilation, use of texture & color]

10. Unusual capacity to support beneficial, forward-thinking public projects, venues & facilities that are valued as important to public well-being, events & celebrations and the solution of problems. [Olympic Pipe Line disaster lessons, Waterfront Futures Group, Redevelopment & Revitalization of Downtown, Water Supply Preservation, Sustainable Growth Management, Center City Master Plan, Greenways, Pedestrian Friendly Transportation, Countywide EMS, Public Facilities District, Waterfront Redevelopment, Sportsplex]

Bellingham has repeatedly demonstrated a real 'can-do' attitude for good causes; but this must be earned and consistently rewarded!

Our goal must be to inspire people to say -in the end- that our new Central Library is just great! And, that it fits both our needs and our expectations, so that it can serve us well as the strong trunk from which healthy branches can grow and be supported.

A satisfied public is always our primary measure of success!

This old song just popped into my mind, so I googled it and found it written by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. It was sung most famously by Bing Crosby. [Just the first verse]


You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between