Friday, March 2, 2007

Imagine the Possibilities

As we get closer to the April 17 referendum vote, many residents of Carol Stream will want to know what a new library will mean to them in terms of added physical space, new resources, and enhanced programs for their families. Contrary to what a few people have written in recent letters to the local newspapers, the vision for the new library extends far beyond a few extra shelves or a few more spaces in the parking lot. This proposal would allow the Library Board of Trustees to oversee the construction of an entirely new facility that would not only provide much needed space for the collections and patrons, but also the means to bring the latest information technologies to library users.

It is not possible here to outline all of the features and resources that are planned for the new library, but we have summarized below some of the most significant improvements that would be a part of the new facility:

Reading and Study Space: Residents who have used the current library for more than a few years have noticed one very disturbing recent trend—large areas in the central portion of the building that were once filled with tables and comfortable chairs for reading have gradually disappeared as more and more shelving has been added in an ongoing attempt to house the growing collections of books and audio-visual materials. The architect’s plans for the new library call for several open and inviting spaces for adults and younger patrons to comfortably read as well as the creation of several quiet study rooms. The library used to feature such study rooms for individuals and small groups to work or collaborate on projects, but they were removed many years ago to make room for needed offices and staff work spaces.

Separate Areas for Adult and Youth Patrons: The current library does not come close to having adequate space for quiet adult reading, youth programs, or special activities for parents with pre-school children. While final blueprints for the new library and the internal floor plan cannot be drawn until the project has been officially approved, there are some preliminary floor plans posted on the library site. You can see that the plans call for much needed space for meetings and special programs as well as ample room for patrons of all ages to be able to read and work in quiet and comfortable spaces.

Enhanced Computer Access: If the library is to be able to serve the needs of the public at a time when information technology is rapidly evolving, it is obvious that we need to have many more computers available to patrons so that they can do online research, work on projects and assignments, and access the resources that are available in our library and in the broader network of library systems in the suburbs and across the state. At present, there is no remaining space to install any more computers, but the plan for the new building calls for at least three times as many computer work stations for patrons. Just as important, the new building will be wired to serve the needs of our users now and for many years to come.

Environmental Issues: The library staff and the Board of Trustees continue to find ways to keep the building as “green” as possible, but energy conservation is sometimes difficult to achieve in a building that was constructed before many of the implications of current environmental concerns were fully understood. The architects and engineers would now have an opportunity to incorporate energy-saving heating and lighting technologies into the specifications for the new building that will not only reduce some energy expenditures, but also make the building a more eco-friendly structure in our community. As noted on the Carol Stream Public Library web site, “The Library and its architects are committed to building a green building in a cost effective manner that will be easy to maintain for many years.”

These improvements would all come in addition to some of the more obvious needs that have already been cited on these pages and on the library web site—more accessible shelving for all patrons, ample green space around the building for patrons who would like to read and work outdoors when weather permits, and additional parking spaces. The library staff has done an admirable job of making the most of the current facility, but it becomes more apparent with each passing year that the limitations created by the size of the building make it extremely difficult for the staff to meet the needs of our community.

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