Friday, February 27, 2009

Library building study 2009

There's more unemployment. The world's economy continues to degrade, and is not likely to significantly improve before next year. Appleton voters defeated two school referenda. Is this any time to be planning to grow the library?

Emphatically, yes.

There are three reasons this is a good time for planning. First, to plan is not to build, but to be ready to build when the time is right. Second, the need to do this was well established years ago, and strongly demonstrated again in the study done last year, even before the economic downtourn. Third, the worsening economy has made the library even more important in many lives.

The library's volume of business has been growing steadily for years, but in recent months has grown in leaps with the economic problems. The added library use gives us a preview of how crowded we will continue to be without more space. The poor economy has re-emphasized our need to find new efficiencies in operations, even while it reminds us that we need to plan for brighter days.

Our 2008 study, involving about 1,000 community members in surveys, focus groups, interviews and town hall meetings, reaffirmed that our library needs a larger space designed to efficiently provide 21st century services. This year, we will work with architects to roughly lay out spaces to do this work. We'll plan sizes, adjacencies, and functions. We'll look at cost options for a new building vs. remodeling current space. We'll get a vision of what could be.

When that vision will be realized may be uncertain. But it is certain that we need to be ready for a better future and move in that direction. The staff and Board of our library will keep talking and will keep involving the community. We won't go forward until this city is ready to go forward, but this is a good time to plan: realistically and hopefully looking toward the future.

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