As I remarked in January before this Board, I was a committed supporter of the library expansion. I spoke before the County Commissioners as an advocate in 2016 as well as promoted support for it among anyone who would listen.
The last 5 years have been a nightmare for me as a person with disabilities because of the LACK OF DEDICATED HANDICAPPED PARKING. I began by pursuing an increase in the number of dedicated handicapped spots, but soon realized, NO ONE HAS VERY GOOD PARKING.
This led me to ask, why did the decision get made YEARS AGO in favor of an expansion instead of a new building?
I don’t know the answer to that, but in my mind, the comparison between the CONS of the existing facility are bad enough that ONLY A NEW BUILDING MERITS SPENDING $55 MILLION DOLLARS.
EXPANSION VERSUS A NEW LIBRARY
BUILDING IS NOT “A WASH”
With a new library, you get A NEW LIBRARY! The quality of the existing library cannot be changed by spiffing up an inadequate existing building. The cruel budget cut really compromised it from the start, but it is fundamentally flawed on a number of levels. For one, the placement of the front door as far away as possible from the parking ramp.
Yes, I know the latest expansion plan moves the entrance to the opposite corner, but it is still NOT IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT to the parking ramp. And the last plans I saw did not have an elevator from the parking garage directly to the library interior like an earlier version I saw and heard about.
LACK OF PARKING
Many people I have spoken to say that the lack of parking prevents them from using the library. “It is such a hassle!” was the common complaint I heard.
LIBRARY EXPANSION WILL NOT IMPROVE THE PARKING.
The existing parking ramp, like I said, DOES NOT GUARANTEE PARKING FOR LIBRARY USERS. The handicapped parking available is not ADA compliant.
The library puts on events and offers the maker space and other program offerings, but all of these TAKE LONGER THAN ONE HOUR, which is the maximum “free” parking allowed for library users. The street meters are mostly 30-minute limits NO EXCEPTIONS, NOT EVEN FOR HANDICAPPED PEOPLE. This makes it MANDATORY TO PARK IN THE RAMP.
And it is not just programming events either than are adversely affected by the lack of guaranteed and obviously FREE would be best for a “FREE” not fee public library. People doing genealogy research have issues (I know because I was told this by a very cheesed off researcher). They are doing deep dives into the database that is offered IN LIBRARY USE ONLY and so might spend 4 hours there researching. Four hours times $2 per hour (no grace on the first hour in and out when exceeding 1 hour) is $8 for parking. Also known as, pretty close to an hour minimum wage.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION!
The main library building EQUALLY HARD TO GET TO FROM EVERYWHERE! And even worse, when you get there, you will be lucky to get a parking space. Especially if you are HANDICAPPED.
With all the new convention center planned events, the library staff much less the public, has less and less chance of getting a parking spot in the CIVIC CENTER RAMP. There are no guaranteed parking spaces for library users.
The book drop off spot has been acknowledged as inadequate on many levels, including requiring that many people have to get out of their cars to USE IT. Many times I have been there and there are 2 or 3 cars lined up waiting. Many times people such as myself, simply get out of the car and use the old fashioned book flaps instead of waiting for the machine (or the person fumbling with the machine).
Then the fact that there is a sidewalk there risking car and pedestrian collisions, the bookmobile garage and delivery door occupying half the turn around. And I have been there when that bay was occupied and 3 cars were already in the queue for the drop off. I even had someone in a pickup go in the wrong way while I had pulled a little to the road side to avoid blocking the drop while I looked for a book to return.
THE KILLER REASON TO SAY NO TO EXPANSION:
OPERATING IN A CONSTRUCTION ZONE
Expansion means the existing library will be gutted and have massive construction vehicles all around for at least a year (I haven’t seen a time line for construction).
Yet, the library would remain open to the public IN THE RESULTING CHAOS. Controlled chaos, but surely maintaining any operational status would require HARD HATS for people just to enter the building!
Service cut offs for essentials like water and light
Water will have to be turned off at various times. So will electricity. Maybe the library would cut hours, say not open in the morning but allow the construction to carry on without staff and users in the way some. Would the construction continue on the weekend? Would they not? It would depend on the building contract and the deadlines imposed to require hitting certain marks along the way or face penalties. No mater what, the use of the library will impede construction, and the construction will impede the use of the library.
And for what? To try turn an unappealing and dated and less-than-optimal functioning building into a LARGER DYSFUNCTIONAL and difficult to use library?
BOOKS AND THINGS WILL HAVE TO BE RELOCATED
Construction for remodeling and expansion will require that parts of the collection be put in storage. A massive undertaking and an EXPENSIVE ONE, as well as rendering much material unavailable for the duration if I don’t miss my guess.
Then there is the CONSTRUCTION DUST factor for both the library materials, the staff, and the users. Not a good plan for someone with asthma or other lung conditions.
The entire HVAC system needs replacing, so that will impact every inch of the existing library. And this is not a one day job or even a week long job. Frankly, it is beyond my understanding how anyone could keep any building open while replaced the heating and air conditioning as well as the electrical and water systems.
Basically, expansion and overhaul still leaves us a library that HAS NO PARKING.
A new library would provide free paring (for staff and users) AND could have room for the school buses to park when school kids come for their annual introduction to the library. A double sized garage could be built for two bookmobiles.
No matter what the city does or does not do with transit, any changes there will be incremental and seemingly painfully inadequate at best. Transit to a new location is a likely to be as functional as transit downtown might be, but once again, I repeat: YOU DO NOT BUILD A LIBRARY BASED ON UNKNOW FUTURE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION!
You decide to build or expand a library based on what the users need, and what how the MAJORITY OF THE USERS WILL GET TO THE LIBRARY: and this means CARS which mandates PARKING as the real consideration to make an accessible library.
The duration of the construction while maintaining operations seems to be both expensive and ineffectual plan.
OPERATING WHILE UNDER CONSTRUCTION IS NUTS
With a new library building, the construction takes place AWAY from the existing library and the library continues to function ass well as it does now.
No down time for construction. No dust. No temporary lack of electricity or water or air.
GREEN THE LIBRARY
A NEW LIBRARY BUILDING means a chance to IMPLEMENT SUSTAINABLE FEATURES. A new library would allow for advanced insulation, solar panels, roof garden maybe, underground storage perhaps, and so much more.
A NEW LIBRARY WOULD ALLOW:
I have run out of time to list and describe all the possibilities a new library would bring that expansion cannot achieve.