Thursday, February 8, 2007

Building a Library: Special Considerations

There has been an interesting exchange of ideas in the “Letters to the Editor” section of The Examiner regarding the proposal for a new library in Carol Stream. Over the past few weeks, two residents have questioned the estimated cost of the proposed new building and wondered why the Library Board doesn’t simply expand the present facility or purchase one of the available warehouse spaces in the industrial section of the village and convert it for library use. The writers suggest that their plans could be completed at a lower cost per square foot.

It is an important discussion because it addresses some valuable ideas that many residents may have about the process of planning and building a modern library that, unfortunately, are not viable options. First, we have to dispel once again the notion that simply adding on to the existing library structure is a practical or economical strategy. As outlined in a previous article on this site, this will not work due to the size of the property and the fact that it is on a flood plain.

While it might be wonderful to be able to build a library at the same cost of a large storage facility or industrial warehouse, the reality is that library construction presents a number of special circumstances and issues that must be taken into account during the planning and construction stages. The American Library Association has published a series of books devoted specifically to this topic, and the Carol Stream Library Board has reviewed these issues as well as the recommendations of architects, library professionals, and interested residents.

Consider some of the special considerations that have helped to shape the current proposal to build a new library:

New Demands for Modern Resources: In years past, planning for libraries was a more predictable and straightforward process since most materials—books, magazines, and tapes—were all items that could be housed on shelves. Once the planners determined the number of linear feet of shelving that would be required, they could simply calculate the number of shelving units to purchase and locate them on the floor plans. Planning for modern libraries is far more complex since attention must be paid to all of the new electronic and computer resources that current users require as well as to predictions of the ways that information technology may evolve in years to come.

Special Engineering: Since libraries typically feature large open spaces in the central public areas, architects and structural engineers must specify building materials that will meet the demands of the larger spans and weight considerations. Creating these inviting open spaces is a more complex and costly process than designing warehouse or commercial structures.

Location: Residents expect that community libraries are conveniently located in central locations so that all patrons can reach the facilities easily and safely. Since a large number of library patrons are school-aged childen who often walk or ride their bikes, it is not feasible or advisable to situate a new library in an industrial area far removed from homes and schools. One of the appealing aspects of the site of the proposed library is the fact that it is conveniently located on Kuhn Road and could help to anchor an educational corridor that incudes Glenbard North High School to the north and the Community Education Center next door.

American Disabilities Act: Like all other public buildings, a new library must conform to all of the local codes as well as access standards required by the ADA. These are important measures that address the physical needs of all patrons, but the structural issues that must be dealt with to be in compliance with these codes and regulations add to the cost of public buildings.

Remember also that we are not suggesting that the current building be torn down. Several other Carol Stream village agencies have already expressed an interest in the building, and the proceeds of the sale of the facility would be used to operate the new library. As the residents who have written to The Examiner have pointed out, the structure is still sound and will be for many years—it is just too small to serve the library needs of a community that has outgrown a facility that was designed to serve a community of less than 10,000 residents and not the current population of more than 40,000 people.

Do you have an opinion about the need or the features of our proposed new library? If so, please leave a comment by clicking on the link below. If you would like to respond in print to the residents who have already written to The Examiner, just click here to reach the newspaper contact page to write your letter.


EKitchener said...

When I was in the library on Friday afternoon, I happened to notice some middle-school age girls practicing a play in the magazine room. If the library had private study rooms, they could have had their rehearsal without disturbing the other person who was also in the room trying to read or study.

Robert said...

I agree, for years the library had quiet study rooms. Unfortunately, due to lack of space they had to be converted to offices. I hope that these will be reinstituted in the new building.