My name is Paula Hardin and “I cannot live without books.” (Thomas Jefferson)
I began actively speaking in support of the Rochester Public Library in 2016 when the decision had been made to pursue a $55 million dollar expansion on the existing site. I will leave the history of the library to another page, but I knew we needed to do something.
The current building needs at least 1/2 a million dollars for maintenance. The excellence of the collection, the programming, and all the ways the library is central to our community, means that the demands on the physical building exceed the ability of the facility to meet the demands.
I simply jumped on board, unquestioningly, supporting the decision to go with expansion, assuming there had been substantial cost / benefit analysis, pros and cons, and other considerations that persuaded the library board that expansion was the way to go.
After the county refusal to support the expansion, things stalled. Meanwhile, I took a step back and began questioning the basis for the obstinate insistence that the library building expansion was the only possible solution.
Audrey Betcher, the library director, frequently said, “We can spend $55 million on a new library or $55 for an expansion so it’s a wash.” But that is not accurate. It is not “a wash” and the two options are not equal. With a new library building you get a new library building!
I have multiple sclerosis. Walking from the parking garage to the entrance of the library (1/4 of a mile) is not possible for me. I rely on being able to park in one of the two dedicated handicapped spots. If they are not available, I have parked in the 30-minute limited meter spots, but there is no exception for people with disabilities to exceed the 30-minute limit there. And yet, many library programs take at least an hour.
BTW, the city does believe that it is important to enforce that 30-minute limit and ticket people even those with handicapped plates or placards. For 10 minutes over the limit (from personal experience).
Even if the expansion plan (as it was) moved the entrance to the corner of 1st Ave SE, that still would not help the parking limitation.More discussion on this will be in posts or maybe other pages.
The solution for many aspects of accessibility is a drive through pick up as well as a functional drop off.
Something needs to be done and we simply don’t have enough information on options, costs, priorities, and other crucial data to determine the “right” thing to do. We really need to develop multiple scenarios with interchangeable features that can be adjusted to create a full array of options and costs and realistically possible choices.
Please join the Library Action Team to build resources for good planning and decision making by the library board for the future of the Rochester Public Library.