The report on library facility options was presented by Engberg Anderson architects at a Library Board meeting and in a special presentation to the City Council this week. The Library Board has endorsed the report, which calls for a new library building as a better option for Appleton than an expanded building.
The preliminary report, available on the library website, looks at building design options for either an expansion of the present building or new construction. The Post-Crescent did a nice job reporting on the presentation to Council. I encourage anyone interested in the future of our library to read the report.
This takes the discussion into a new phase. The Library Board has asked the Mayor to consider a site selection process for next year. There's a lot of work and discussion that will need to happen before that decision gets made. A few points ...
- The need is real -- and is not one that comes from the staff or the Board, but from the community, the public's use of library services and comparison with best practices in the state and nation. This was substantiated in the extensive community process we undertook last year, with lots of public participation. But I expect we'll need to keep repeating it and justifying it.
- The library is for everyone. It's frustrating to hear some people say that we wouldn't have the need, or the library would be worth supporting, if only we kept "those people" away -- and meaning those who may be different. I'll keep on saying it: the library is for everyone. We'll ask anyone to leave if they misbehave or interfere with other folks' library use.
But we won't deny service to people because they're poor or mentally ill or disabled or speak a different language. This is a public library in a nation founded on equality and freedom. This is a place where everyone in the community can come on an equal basis to learn, to gather, and to create their own opportunities.
- One building, downtown - we pretty much resolved in last year's process that branch libraries are not yet the solution for Appleton. Additional facilities will always be inherently less efficient, as collections, staff functions and utility costs get multiplied. Appleton is not yet big enough to justify this.
And a central library as part of a vibrant downtown works on a lot of levels. We're readily accessible by bicycle and bus. We're within walking distance for many residents and convenient for senior housing and downtown workers. We collaborate with other downtown businesses and organizations. One of the busiest buildings in Appleton, we're part of making the downtown cool, and we're glad to be here!
- We want to do the best job for the future of the community. Staff sees heavy use on a daily basis -- not just in the short term, but in the long term. In my 31 years here, I've seen use grow and grow and grow. We need to do it right, not short-sightedly or expediently. Quick fixes tend to just cost more in the long run.
- We want to be careful in our decision-making. Many people say, "we can't afford this now -- maybe in a few years." But we're not talking about building now, we're talking about planning now so we can build in a few years, if we can afford it. Whether or not we build a library, our City is fiscally conservative, careful about structuring our long term debt and committed to not having big tax increases. That won't change, and we expect that some private dollars will be needed to make this happen. But it will take a decision by the City to proceed before we can effectively begin to raise those private funds.
Rather than rapid-firing comments that have little basis, people should become involved in the civic process so they understand that what gets printed in the paper only skims the surface of the careful work that's been done. There is much more to running the city, library and schools than most people can imagine. In-depth planning is done years in advance and when need is anticipated, it is weighed and thoughtfully considered.
The library is many things to many people. It doesn't try to be a 'one-stop' shop, but it does have state standards to meet and a mission to carry out. Chances are, if you don't live in Appleton or use the library building, you have probably had benefit of the OWLS library system interlibrary loan of items from the APL, without having to drive there yourself.
Everyone knows this is a difficult time to consider spending money, but potential library construction is not expected until between 2012 and 2014. Please become informed and THEN discuss.