Friday, April 25, 2008

Public hearing on library facility needs

We've gotten the first report from our consultant, Durrant and Himmel & Wilson. They conducted two surveys, did focus groups and interviews, and altogether got input from about 1,000 people. About 65 people came to the "Town Hall" meeting to hear and discuss the report. I was happy with the turnout, including public officials from the City Council and Library Board, as well members of the Library Foundation Board, Library friends, staff, and lots of folks who were library users or interested citizens.

The Post Crescent published a pretty good report on the evening: "Increased demand has Appleton library looking at renovation: Space needs may lead to relocation". They reported the major findings as:
  • Completing the second floor with an additional 12,000 square feet is not enough to meet space needs or solve design problems
  • There might be some engineering problems expanding the building to the south, which could also worsen parking concerns
  • Library patrons and staff want free parking.
  • Support exists for creating a cafe within the library.
  • Adult and teenage users want a teen space in the library.
  • Library staff supports keeping the facility downtown, but not necessarily in its current location.
Readers responding in the Post Crescent website expressed some concerns & suggestions:
  • the library is noisy and crowded
  • it's wrong to charge for parking
  • make it like libraries used to be: keep children out of the way, get rid of food & drinks
  • move to the City Center mall
  • move to the old K-Mart
  • move to any large available building around town
My response on the PC website:
Yes the library is often crowded and parts are noisy -- that's rather the point. There are some nice quiet areas, but not as many or as convenient as they should be. Let's not go back to old ways, but make the library building better meet today's needs.

The library would stay downtown, were it up to me. Downtown workers use the library; it's in easy walking and bicycling distance of very many residents & near mass transit, making it available to those without cars. 30-40% of people visiting the library do other things downtown, like restaurants, shopping, and museums. The library and the YMCA are the two biggest downtown draws.

Can you park for free in downtown Milwaukee, Madison, or Green Bay? The library needs to have plenty of parking close at hand for those with limited mobility (seniors, parents with several young children). That and the way the City is growing, especially north, is what fuels the discussion of a branch library option.

For design, libraries have some concerns: bookstacks are really heavy; libraries are built to bear heavier loads than parking garages. The cost to retrofit a building in which footings were not poured to library specs can be extremely high. We should not reject any option out of hand, nor ignore needs for expediency. If we spend money, we should do it carefully. It is not just about space, but designing for use.

It is a little soon to start looking at specific cases. At the next meeting, on May 28, consultants will bring forward three options, and the community can look at the pros and cons of each. After we determine what we should do, we might talk about where -- though staying where we are may well be one of the options. Then it will be up to the Library Board, the Mayor and City Council -- nothing will happen quickly or without lots of public debate. Come on May 28 and lend your voice!

Terry Dawson, APL Director
There were more interesting points in the public meeting than the Post Crescent had space for. We're getting a copy of the PowerPoint from the evening's presentation and will put it online ASAP.


Barbara Kelly said...

I know that the date WAS May 19th when this post was written. But it has since been changed to May 28th. Of Course we do hope to see as many interested members of the public as possible.

Terry Dawson said...

Good catch, Barbara -- the meeting date was changed, and I've changed the above post to reflect the changed date.