Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stop the new library insanity ...

The Concord Monitor, not surprisingly, came out with another editorial in support of a new library. As a frequent user of the current library – and a user off and on for more than three decades – I continue to be amazed and dismayed by the new library discussion.

First, there is no need for a "modern, new library." That is a fallacy that continues to be foisted upon us by a handful of people in this community who are obsessed with “new and expensive,” along with the Concord Monitor editorial board. In fact, it was a previous editor who sat on the first library study committee board that released an extremely lavish report suggesting that our city build a library we will never be able to afford [Hint of the insanity? Paraphrasing, 'let's build a cafe inside the library ...' Oh yeah, great idea ... help continue to make life difficult for the five cafes downtown that pay property taxes and are barely hanging on …].

Second, not unlike our community’s elementary school consolidation plan studies that revealed there was nothing structurally wrong with the historic schools, the same goes here. There is absolutely nothing structurally wrong with the current library. It is a solid, sound building. What it really needs is a consultant to come in and redesign the layout of library services based on the needs of the 21st century. This consultant should also offer realistic and affordable potential renovation and expansion suggestions to make the best use of the current building.

Every time I go into that building, I'm amazed at the misused space. It's almost as if it is done on purpose, mentally forcing people to hope for a new library. The space problems could be remedied if someone just took a little time to think about it. Take the CD room, for example, which barely has any CDs in it and is not used to its full potential. Not only are the CDs not in proper racks, they are taking up all kinds of floor space. It's totally wasted.
How about the main entry way, which is cavernous … Why can’t the second floor be extended over the current first floor to allow for more space?
Not enough natural light? Why not scrap the spotty lawn and unkempt landscape areas around the front of the building and replace them with sunny reading rooms attached to the main building?
Why can’t the children’s room be moved downstairs where the CD room and offices are now located? It could have its own entrance near the small parking area in the back. A family was nice enough to donate that entrance and it is locked off to the public. This would also allow for different space uses upstairs.
I implore the city to scrap the new library plan and hire a layout and renovation consultant to look at this now instead of buying any land. I would also be happy to help out in this regard, free of charge.

Third, at a time when the budget has already cut library hours, and library hours will probably again be put on the chopping block this year, this is no time to be building a new library. That’s a fact. The deficit is even bigger than last year and, unfortunately, the city will probably not listen to any of our ideas on how to better use the funds or even consolidate depts. to save money. They’ll trot out all kinds of library cuts to freak people out again. And everyone, please, don’t fall for the talking point that a new library will be designed so that it can run longer and better with fewer workers. That never, NEVER happens. Let’s try and live a little bit longer with what we have.

Fourth, the city can't afford to take any more private tax revenue off line. Building a new library on Storrs Street will take $35K from the tax rolls. Have we not learned from the disastrous Capitol Commons garage fiasco? It will take millions to buy the parcels and that’s millions we don’t have.

Fifth, why do people continue to talk about parking problems when there are no parking problems? I never have a problem finding parking near the library when I need to go there and I go at all different times during the week. I go on weekday mornings, Saturday mornings, and Sunday afternoons. Sometimes, if there is an Audi event or when the Legislature is in session, I have to park on Centre Street or Spring Street and walk an extra block or two. Big deal. And yes, I do it when I have my two little ones with me. Again, big deal. That’s life. We cannot spend millions on a new library just because people are too lazy to walk a block or two from a parking space. Enough already.

Lastly, there has been some discussion about the “homeless problem at the library." Well, let’s be honest: There isn't a “homeless problem at the library” … there's a homeless problem in our community and we refuse to look at it in real terms (although there are a lot of private people trying to do something). In a nutshell, the problems have to do with addiction, high rents due to high property taxes and landowners squeezing as much of a living or mortgage payments from their rents as they can, and the lack of jobs in our city. The answers to the problems are huge and a new library doesn’t solve any of them. In fact, a new library potentially makes the problems worse.

Question to everyone: When are we going to start thinking outside of the box and stop repeating the same mistakes of the past?


Anonymous said...

If the City continues to cut funding for Library staff, materials and hours, how can it afford to build a new library???

Anonymous said...

For a guy who writes a website and complains, you aren't doing anything in the community. We all live here, we all want a nice place to live. I do not think we need a new library. I do think we need some people who will step up and help, but why should anyone, all you do is bash people. Is this a trait you want to be known for you, if you have kids is this something you want to pass down. How about being a productive member of society, and volunteer, run for an office,

Tony said...

Sigh. I bet I know who wrote this one, Anon5:22 ... why don't you just call me?

Look, I'm not going to justify what I "do" in the community. I serve here and there, in non-public capacities and that has to be good enough for now. I'm a more than productive member of society. I don't have to run for office to make change.

I don't just bash people here. That's not fair. And clearly, you don't read the site enough if that's your opinion. I praise people all the time! But, if people aren't doing what they need to do, well, they get called on it, just like they should.

Anonymous said...

How many people patronize Borders, Gibsons, Annies Book Stop and other equally accessable locations compared to the Concord Library?

Has the Internet made public libraries irrelevant?

Anonymous said...

Last time I looked, Borders, Gibsons, etc. all charge $ for books. The public library is free.

And Anon 5:22--who is doing the bashing?? Journalists write as productive members of society, even if truths are unpleasant.

Jeremy said...

I just want to point out that the library is NOT free! Hard working tax payers are forced to contribute to the library whether they want to or not. Borders and the other book stores don't force tax payers to pay for their books, utilities, or salaries.

Anonymous said...

free - what is free about a library that is paid for by with people's taxes?