Thursday, October 25, 2007

Library Planning Update 2: Working Hard or Playing Games?

Bellingham Public Library is the

...Power of Information...Discovery of Ideas...Joy of Reading!
"Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." -A.J. Liebling

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts."
- Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome." – Samuel Johnson

"There are two stages to the public policy process; too early to tell, and too late to do anything about it." - Anonymous

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read yet another negative editorial in today's WIndy about the Library planning process that is now underway.

So, I've decided to comment on that, and to use this blog to print more feedback from the October 9 meetings.

The first quote above seems to accurate reflect the way things are in general, and the way news gets mixed with opinion.

But, nowadays there are more ways to get information than we used to have, thanks to the Internet, cell phones and video channels.

In fact, one of my motivations in starting this blog was to be able to communicate some information I thought was important that wasn't easily available, and to respond to other information being put out to the public that I thought was wrong, misleading or questionable.

This Library editorial is one of those cases that may need responding to in a timely manner, while impressions are fresher in people's minds.

Mind you, this blog comes no where close to reaching the circulation of the WIndy, or the Weakly, or the Herald.
But, it will reach some people, and they will have an opportunity to hear another view on this subject.

Here goes;

To say the Library Board has done anything other than expend hours and hours of honest hard work and effort in their deliberations since 2001 is inaccurate to say the least!

I should know because I was the (non-voting) Council Liasion to the Library Board for 5 out of the last 7 years and attended most of their meetings during that time.

Former Council Member Dr. Grant Deger acted as Liaison the other two years, and he also attended most meetings.

In 2001, the Capital Improvements Advisory Committee [CIAC] completed over 2 years of its extensive review of the City's Capital needs over the next 20 years.
I also participated fully in that remarkable learning exercise, and agreed with its carefully considered conclusions and recommendations.

The CIAC rated the need for a new Central Public Library as its number 1 priority six years ago!

The Library Board has worked on this goal ever since, despite turnover among each of its 5 positions, the Library Director and Mayor.
At this moment, I happen to be the one person with the most experience of participating in this process!

Yet, the WIndy concludes that the 'public process' is severely flawed?

Baloney! I'm not buying that.

But, that is often the argument heard when some folks don't think they're getting their way on something, and seek to simply sandbag the efforts that others actually work towards.

Suffice to say, the WIndy and anyone else is entitled to their opinion, but substituting that opinion for 'public process' doesn't work very well either!

The WIndy seems to think the central argument should be a choice between having a new Central Library, or a system of Branches.
I believe that is a false choice, because we can have both!

But, like a tree, without a sturdy trunk there is no support for strong branches!

So, what seems appropriate is to have the discussion focus on how a well-conceived Library system can be designed to provide more widely distributed service to the community.

That's the discussion we are having now, despite claims to the contrary.

The practical side of this that it may be impossible for everyone to get everything they want all at one time.

That might break the bank and prevent any Library bond issue to pass at the ballot box.

'Phased implementation' is a term most people will recognize.

It means working on a bigger objective, one piece at a time, until the entire goal can be realized.

So, I see that as a basic strategy that can help whatever the community decides to do for its future Library needs.

Does anyone really believe a central hub is unnecessary?

The location of that hub is already known; it is the current Library site.

That decision has already been approved by the City Council, based upon the recommendation of the Library Board.

It takes advantage of the fact the Library is already a well-used facility that people know how to find.

It saves millions of dollars in property acquisition costs, because that property is already owned by the City.

It replaces a tired old building that is way too small, needs major repairs and is unequipped for modern technology.

Bottom line; its cheaper, quicker, more easily done to tear it down and build another modern facility that can meet the City's projected needs for the next 50 years or more.

A big part of those future needs is a central storage and distribution center, a place to concentrate staff, a place to hold more public meetings and events, a place to park, including school buses, ADA vehicles, book mobiles, and a high tech nerve center capable of linking to branches.

How is that for explaining quickly phase 1 of a plan?

I don't know if a plan like this will result, but it sounds logical to me.

But then logic and politics don't always agree, do they?

Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth.

Hope it helps.

But, its no excuse for not participating in the public process that is now taking place.

Now, printed below is more information on 6 of the 7 categories discussed in the October 9 meetings:

Please don't tell me this doesn't count as public process, because there were many citizens who showed up and participated!

Plus, the meeting that night was televised on BTV10, just as the October 23 meeting was.

And now, here it is again, right here on this very public blog, for your reading pleasure....
Community Spaces

Bright, open, easily-accessible Friends of the Library space. Consult Friends regarding what kind of space they need. Friend’s bookstore. Courtesy phone in community space. Computer labs for staff training, the public, and for community groups to use for training. Technology play room. Large internet area. Common space for gathering, relaxing, talking, learning. Flanked by commercial space. Create pedestrian conduit between City Hall and new Art and Children’s Museum. Reading area with comfy chairs. Study areas with comfortable chairs. Small study/gathering rooms for tutoring and study groups. Comfortable reading places with light. Quiet research area. Whatcom Genealogy Society space. Literacy Council. Small office for COB police. Light, light, light. Coffee shop is a must. Potentially next to public meeting space and Friend’s bookstore. Large enough for small meetings. CafĂ©, comfy space to meet friends. Lunch opportunity for civic center employees. Concession area with wireless internet capability. Space for community events, inside or outside. Gallery spaces for art. Places for local artists to display work. Small and large meeting rooms that offer flexibility. (10, 25, 50, 100, 200-500 people) Large meeting room for civic purposes, 200 plus people. Moveable partitions for flexibility. Meeting room that can be opened to the outside and available for after hours use. Meeting rooms with technology tools, AV equipment. Will be able to use 3-D holograms of regional and national speakers. Co-location with public access TV, radio and other community media. Classroom space for teaching. Indoor/outdoor spaces for the community. Program outdoor space for activities such as outdoor performances. Casual meeting areas, not always in rooms. Ability to combine rooms for book sales. Small amphitheater/meeting/lecture area. Theater/performance area. Establish the Library as the place of open dialogue in the community. Keep a water feature. Inviting outdoor spaces offer cover as well as take advantage of sun. Rooftop garden room like Chicago Public. Any opportunities for interactive first floor spaces with street. Strive to design spaces to be used by the community for non-library events and programs. Zone areas; Children’s, Teen’s, Genealogy, Reading, Study rooms, Tech areas. Quiet reading space for kids in children’s area. Kid’s area with some limited recreation. Destination for families. Nice staff lounge.

More copies of best sellers, movies, E-books, and NW related. Hip/new/fresh movies, books, and CDs. Current, new, attractive titles. Face out display like bookstores. Multiple copies of popular items to satisfy demand. More copies of new releases. More periodicals. More room to browse shelves. No closed stacks, everything out for the public. Continue with local/Northwest authors. Responsive; attractive; relevant; cutting edge formats. Downloadable video, music, and books. Lots of media, a variety of formats. E-books. Books on CD. Expand documentaries on DVD; PBS quality documentaries. How about playaways? Databases that are popular and well used. More computers if we’re accessing collections from computers. Web based collections to order remote and pick-up/return at street level. Teen collection with current appeal. Zones for Children’s and Teens. Children’s area for play and exploration (library and book related) Business center. Expand the world language collection. Expand genealogy collection. Local history, genealogy, LEED, and green practices. Security system. Small collections for new branch locations- Barkley? Keep up the great work. Maintain great service we currently enjoy. Maintain high quality of print and non-print materials.

Friendly and efficient. Adjacencies that make sense. As automated as possible but simple to understand. Secure Library from public space; allow doors to public space to operate alternate hours. Roving staff. None to very little staff sitting. Contemporary signage to direct customers. Welcoming lobby/entry. Information desk at entry. A better flow of traffic in and out of the Library. One service point. Only one exit. Additional staff at service points. Full service website, virtual branch. 24/7 virtual reference. Separate phone reference (behind scenes?) Homework help chat. Additional IT help to speed up introducing new technologies/applications. Must use innovative service technologies to reduce staffing costs. Longer hours. Outside book drop that presorts materials. Well-designed space for deliveries. Auto CKi. Large space for delivery processing. Easier flow of holds pick-up to self check. A better flow of incoming deliveries to acquisitions (cataloging, processing) and cki (reshelving). Drive-up book drop that can be accessed from the driver’s side. Efficient parking/circulation for all employees and customers. Better way to store books when not in use. Easier way for donated books to get into “Friends” space for distribution. Outdoor book bin for Friends donations. Customer service orientation. Staff members to go to other sites to do presentations. Marketing component. Every fall establish community outreach program. Include children’s program, transition from high school to technical school/college, adult program, and seniors program. Self service. Staff room near staff. More adequate staff lockers and storage. Excellent customer service always. Areas for service/questions set apart from reading/quiet areas. Plan for adequate custodial staff for high use public building. Bathrooms on all floors. Expand services to branch at Barkley location. Act as a clearinghouse/advertising center for all local recreation program providers. Ability to view council meeting tapes. Potential to combine funding with PFD and parking fund to build joint parking. Any proposal for bond measure must fit within City debt capacity. Must be cost-efficient, affordable over long-term. Must support multi-modal transportation goals of the City and community.

Use technology to make the new library more efficient. Get wider band width. Wifi throughout. Places for laptop users. Public library should be cutting edge of technology, especially for those without access. Computer access for all residents. Audio-visual. Incorporate presentation needs into conference room design. State of the art. More computers than we presently have. Internet stations away from reference area. More internet stations throughout the library. Many computer stations for children’s area. Kid-sized. Electrical outlets everywhere, including tables with built in outlets for laptops. Keep/expand web-based library services. Ability to check book availability from personal computer. Home access through library site to online journals for monthly or annual fee. Online viewing of DVDs/documentaries. Access to services like lexus-nexus research services for a fee. RFID materials handling system. Plan to include it even if can’t afford it now. Book sorting. CD/DVD dispenser. Phones with cordless/wireless options. Staff can answer questions on the floor. State of the art public announcement system. Automated checkout/check-in. Automated tracking for books. Self-check becomes the norm. Catalog stations by the stacks. More catalogs throughout library. Technology lab- enclosed room with windows to inside with computers and library staff person. Computer labs. On-line books. Copier/fax area enclosed to cut down on noise. Design flexibility will facilitate change as it is hard to know what future technology will be. State of the art security, cameras, book theft protection.
Interior Environment

Warm, inviting, welcoming environment. Warm, friendly children’s spaces and separate teen spaces. Fun reading area for small kids groups, like a little barn or boat. Fun/dynamic kids area with fun entry to space. Motif such as Mt. Baker, lake, creek. Teen homework room where they can talk/work together without getting yelled at. Cool, rad teen zone with flat screen TV. Creative teen space with teen appeal. Teen approved comfortable chairs in teen area. Design each space for its purpose. Inspiring. Modern looking that is inviting. Neat, modern, environmental products for flooring, shelving, etc... Reflect the diversity of the community. Fun and exciting. Perhaps public art, interactive or mobile displays, programming. Pacific Northwest architecture. Use of local materials, lots of wood. Reflects a sense of place. Active commercial areas that are compatible with library. Sound and noise control. Quiet spaces for reading. Lots of natural light. Bright and open. Excellent lighting, including daylight dimming. Windows with views. Seating areas along windows. Tall ceilings. More places to sit. Comfortable seating areas. Fire place with comfortable furniture. Study areas for small and medium sized groups. Quiet, cubby type reading areas, especially for children. Variety of areas for people to retreat with books and studies. Variety of public meeting spaces. Computer spaces should incorporate space for backpacks, purses, etc... Logical furniture layout with smooth traffic patterns. Variety of furniture choices from cozy by the fireplace to desks and chairs for study. Softer chairs for longer meetings. Earth tone furniture. Furniture that is Northwest craftsman, comfortable. David Gray style furniture would be perfect. More space to browse shelves, even sit on floor. Safe, secure. Security for restrooms. Pleasant restrooms. Convenient bathrooms in visible areas. Efficient work spaces. Easy to maintain. Clean. All areas easily accessible. Allow for donations by category and use plaques. Signs with large letters and in visible locations. Display work of local artists, both permanent and temporary.
Spirit of the Place

Embrace the Northwest. Northwest feel in materials and design. Lots of wooden structure. Historic, reflective of outdoor environment. Honor what Bellingham is. Make Bellingham proud. Connection to natural elements. Bayside, Oceanside feel. Salish theme; eagle and raven, orca and salmon, bear and wolf. Totems; sun and moon, earth, water, sky/air, and fire. Make it feel earthy, granola, tree-hugging. Reflection of community character. A place for everyone to gather. A community gathering place. Engaging and comfortable for all ages. Diverse culturally, community, and programming. A destination. Soul enriching. Visually inspiring and exciting. Architecturally superb. Peaceful yet stimulating. Fun and dynamic. Quirky, whimsical, playfull, and joyful. Enriching. Accessible. Easy to use. Welcoming. Holistic. Inviting. Open and light. Warm. Safe. Inspiration for learning and exploration. The place of open, objective, relevant information. Leader of community; free speech, freedom of information, embrace all people and cultures. Leader in dissemination of information; new technologies, sustainable ideas, renewable energies, objective information. Celebrating the arts. Include lots of art, serious and whimsical, stationary and interactive, large and small. View of Mt. Baker. Start with the thought that we are doing most everything well, we have a lot to be proud of in our library.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." – Thomas Edison

“Opinion is power.” - Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1816

"There are two stages to the public policy process; too early to tell, and too late to do anything about it." - Anonymous

"The purse of the people is the real seat of sensibility. Let it be drawn upon largely, and they will then listen to truths which could not excite them through any other organ." --  Thomas Jefferson

"My experience in government is that when things are non-controversial and beautifully coordinated, there is not much going on." - JFK

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. - Winston Churchill