Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Placemakers and Landmarks

Check out this great article in Library Journal about the New Landmark Libraries 2015 winners! It highlights the trends found among the winners that demonstrate the new norms of 21st century libraries. The article states:

“The 2015 trends foreground the value public libraries are providing to their communities in the 21st century and illustrate how libraries are out in front as investors in community development and health. The visibility our Landmarks achieve enables each library (and its staff, services, and collections) to connect to the neighborhood, the town or city, and its surroundings in ways that truly celebrate what a difference access to information can make in people’s lives. We’ve identified nine additional trends from this year’s competition that further the concept of what a public library is or can be in today’s society.”

The nine trends are:
1) Libraries are their communities
2) Productive partnerships
3) Libraries as placemakers
4) Creative culture catalysts
5) Aspirational and accessible
6) Libraries breathe and grow
7) Transparent and light-filled
8) Connected to the environment
9) Boundless

These are the very things we are trying to achieve for the Plainfield community! Visit the Building & Expansion Planning web page to learn about the planning process!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top 10 Reasons New Construction Makes More Sense than Renovation and Addition

1. Cost
It may seem counterintuitive, but order of magnitiude cost estimates placed renovation and addition to the existing Library at $1 million MORE expensive than new construction of the same total square footage. The two key factors in that difference are phased construction and moving costs. In phased construction, contractors set up, begin work, complete the addition, clean up and leave the site. The Library moves into the addition. Then contractors return, set up, begin work, complete the renovation, clean up and leave the site. The Library moves into the full space. You pay twice for the set up and clean up by the contractors as well as for two moves. In new construction, the new building is built on the Library property, the Library moves in, the existing building is razed and the parking lot completed.

2. Efficient Use of Site
The existing building is built to the lot lines on 2 1/3 sides of the building, which limits the location of an addition. An addition to the west side of the building cuts off access to Lockport Street from parking and entrance to the building. Site constraints force a long, narrow addition that would be inefficient operationally. An addition to the north side of the building cuts off access to Illinois Street from parking and entrance to the building. Constructing a new building on the north side of the property maintains access to Illinois Street and the downtown businesses, placing the parking convenient to all of those uses.

3. Accessibility
The existing building requires extensive renovation to meet current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The most notable deficiencies in this area are the main and staff entrances. The street level lobby area does not provide sufficient space between the inner doors and the base of the stairs. The staff entrance is accessed via metal stairs on the exterior of the building. New construction can more efficiently incorporate best practices in Library design comply with all aspects of ADA, from maximum heights for book shelves to elevator size and aisle widths.

4. Life Safety
The existing building requires extensive renovation to meet current life safety codes. The location of the boiler next to the main electrical shut offs with no physical separation. This is just one example of building system design that was acceptable in 1990, but not in 2015. New construction builds to current code without the need to retrofit existing systems and spaces to new specifications.

5. Energy Code Compliance
The location and orientation of new construction on the north side of the site, with the main entrance and front wall facing south is key to energy efficiency and takes best advantage of natural light. The windows, lighting and boiler of the existing building do not meet today’s energy efficiency standards. Compliance with those standards will also help to mitigate the operational cost of a larger building. Renovation and addition to an existing building again requires extensive work to meet the new standards.

6. Open, Flexible Floor Plan
One of the top priorities for creating a Library that can serve this community in the long term is creating an open, flexible floor plan that can be reconfigured to meet the changing needs of the community. The pillars, columns and large open stairwell in the center of the main floor of the existing library do not allow for this type of floor plan without significant cost. New construction is designed to be open and flexible to allow for future change.

7. Efficient Floor Plan for Library Operations
The “raised ranch” floor plan of the existing library is operationally inefficient. If a floor plan lines up to the existing floors, a larger amount of the site must be used to achieve the total square footage needed. If the addition and existing floors do not align, the number of levels and space needed for lobbies and stairwells to access each is increased. That leaves less overall space for library services as well as increasing the operational cost for personnel.

8. Parking
The Library parking lot functions as one of the main public parking facilities for the downtown. The size and location of parking on the Library site is critical. Maintaining access to Illinois Street and downtown businesses was factor in the selection of new construction over renovation and addition. The placement of the parking between downtown businesses and the Library makes sense in the context of the current location.

9. Duration and Disruption of Construction
In a phased renovation and addition project, the timeline is extended to allow for the additional move and reset from constructing the addition to renovating the existing building. In this scenario, the Library operates within a construction site for approximately 24 months. It will negatively impact day-to-day operations. In new construction, the duration is less because phasing is not required. The disruption is minimized because the construction is physically separated from the operating Library.

10. Moving Twice/Temporary Configuration
Moving a Library is very costly. There are a large number of items to move. The items are heavy. Think about the last time you had to move a box of books. Now multiply by thousands. The Library is closed to the public during the move. To minimize the time closed, the boxes must be kept in order so the items go back onto the shelves in order. A temporary configuration must be designed to allow access to the collection, public computers, meeting rooms and accommodate staff work space. In new construction, the Library will continue to operate until the new building is complete. Once moved into the new building, the existing building would be razed and the parking lot completed.

Click here to view the presentation from the July Board meeting when the decision was made to pursue new construction.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Comment: Citizen Advocates for Library

The Library received the following comment on a feedback survey: “I would like more information on how citizens can advocate for the needs of the library. I feel improvements and expansion are needed for the vital services provided by the library for the sake of the public good.”

Some interested and involved folks are organizing a citizens committee in support of Library expansion. I will share their meeting and contact information when it becomes available.

In the meantime, attend an expansion planning public meeting to hear about the process to date and give feedback. It’s a critical time for input from the community, to ensure that the project fits the community’s needs within the cost that the community is ready to support! Visit the Building & Expansion Planning web page for the latest information and to take the latest survey.

The next public meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 8, 7pm at the Plainfield Township Community Center. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Comment: Elected Officials Should Donate Pay to Library

The Library received the following comment on a feedback survey: “If Major League Baseball Teams build ballparks without public money, then this library can also be built without public money! Have some of the elected officials donate a portion of their pay and see where it goes from there.”

Major League Baseball teams charge for tickets. The definition of a public library is an organization established and funded by the community to provide access to knowledge, information and works of the imagination and to make access equally available to all members of the community. Put simply, you aren’t charged to use basic library services – no charge for admission!

Library Trustees are elected officials who serve voluntarily – without pay. They already donate their time to serve the community that elected them.

And for the record, if a local elected officials are paid, it is with public money. If those funds were instead used to pay for a building, the building would be built with public money…

Friday, September 4, 2015

Entrance Door Replacement September 8 &9

Once more, the failing systems of the current building need replacement. The door opener for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility on the entrance to the Library was a modification to the original entry doors, because the 1991 building predated the 1993 Americans with Disabilities Act. As you know from visiting the Library, especially with a stroller, in a wheelchair, using a walker etc., the current opener is cumbersome and has been increasingly out of service, requiring repair.

The 2012 Building Evaluation identified this replacement as a “Tier 2” or 2-5 year need, in hindsight a very accurate estimate of its remaining useful life from that point. The Library is fortunate that an automatic door can be retrofitted to the existing door opening without the need for extensive modifications to the vestibule area. However, it will be a significant service interruption for our users.

On Tuesday, September 8 and Wednesday, September 9, the company performing the work is scheduled begin at 6am and be done for the day at 11am. When they leave on Tuesday, it is anticipated that the door will be operational but finish work not yet complete. From 9am to 11am on both days, Library users will be directed to the entrance on the side of the Library building between the Library and Plymouth Congregational Church. This entrance is not ADA accessible but there are no other accessible entrances into the building.

Anyone using the Library from 9-11am on Tuesday, September 8 and Wednesday, September 9 will have to climb a metal exterior stair to do so. Staff will be stationed at this entrance to help anyone who may be unable to enter the Library due to the service disruption. 

Our apologies for the temporary inconvenience while the entrance doors are replaced.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Citizens Information Center now live!

Transparency is the buzzword for local governments these days. To help make information about the Library more accessible to our residents, the Library launched a new web page in August: the Citizens Information Center

The Library Board of Trustees take their fiduciary responsibility to the residents of the district very seriously, as reflected in the Strategic Plan focus of Stewardship. This page will be updated regularly with the latest meeting information, Board packets including financials, budgets and annual audit. It provides ready access to basic information about the Library and its operations for residents and taxpayers of the district.

Suggestions and comments are welcome! 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

From the Suggestion Box: Noise, Trees and Selection

“The library staff here is very loud. I came to the library hoping for a quiet & relaxing area. I was very disappointed w/ the Plainfield Public Library. Please lower your voices when talking on the phone!”

I am sorry that the library cannot provide quiet areas at this time. As repeatedly stated on this blog, in press releases, in library newsletters, etc., there is no quiet space left in our Library. At about 1/3 the size it should be to serve our community, every single area must serve multiple purposes and house as much as possible. Yes, library staff answer questions and conduct business over the phone in public areas of the library. They have to – there are neither the number of staff nor the space to remove those functions to non-public areas. Also, the high ceilings of some library areas and low soffits of other areas create interesting acoustics, with sound that carries easily particularly throughout the upper level. Library staff work hard to balance the multiple demands this work environment imposes, such as speaking loudly enough on the phone for the listener, but softly enough for those in the close proximity of the current library space. Community support for library expansion will be needed to offer quiet space in the library.

“Tree branches over sidewalk near entrance need trimming so you don’t walk into the branches.”

Technically, the parkway trees belong to the Village of Plainfield. But, after numerous comments and complaints within a short time, the library’s Maintenance staff took care of the problem. Let us know if the weird branch that was growing straight down comes back!

“I think this Library should get a better selection.”

Help us get the things you want by using our Suggest a Title form! We purchase on demand to help meet community needs within our space constraints. With every physical item needing to “earn” its shelf space by being checked out, we delay buying some things until there is demand for it. So Suggest a Title or place a hold to get it from another library. Either way, you’re letting us know what you want from your library.

As for the number of physical items available this time of year: Welcome to Summer Reading! One good problem we have is that in June every year, more than 50% of the Library’s physical items are checked out. On the other hand, that pretty much means that anything that could be categorized as new or popular is checked out. Currently, the library’s collection exceeds the building’s capacity for physical items because so much is checked out at once, even at our slowest times of year. You may notice this in August after Summer Reading ends, or in late December, our 2 slowest times of year for check outs. At those times, carts of books or DVDs appear at the ends of shelving areas and stay a while. Community support for library expansion will be needed to offer a larger selection.