Written submission to the New Library Steering Committee.
Facilities I would like to see in the new Belleville Library.
Some ideas for submission at the Library Steering Committee Open Meeting
Nov 27, 2003 : John R. Meale
GENERAL: Despite the forecasts of the internet making traditional
libraries obsolete, experience in other areas has shown more than ever that
libraries can be a real community gathering place and that increasingly
people remain in the building to use the materials. E.G. in the town of Memonomee
Falls Wisconsin it is reported that in 1966 65% of the people entering the
library checked out materials and only 35% used the materials inside the
library. By 2001 those numbers were reversed, i.e. only about 1/3 of the
library visitors actually checked out material for use outside the library.
New, well designed libraries are more than ever becoming people places and
are frequently the kernel of downtown revitalization. Changing demographics
and lifestyle trends indicate some shift in emphasis of what a libray should
be. However the key roles of education and intellectual fulfilment for all
citizens regardless of their ability to pay must not be compromised. Providing
opportunity for intellectual and cultural enrichment should not in any way
be seen as elitist but as one of the cornerstones of our democratic society.
The building should be one that will proclaim our pride in our city and our
confidence in the future. Visitors to our city will judge us by it.
Below I have listed some design features and facilities I would like
to see the new library contain:
Comfortable lounge, reading areas: These would include
some comfortable stuffed chairs and couches etc. but also tables and chairs
convenient for perusing newspapers and larger size periodicals etc. I think
listening posts for music Cds or audio books would not be imcompatible with
part of this area provided that headphones were used.
Coffee shop: It seems to have become well accepted
that a café should be included in new library designs. I think this
is a good idea but I can see some problems with it as well. I think this
is an area where free enterprise may be able to nicely compliment the public
library facility. Allowing food and drink into the library can create probems
for cleaning and maintenance etc. I do not see the library as just a hangout.
And though the goal should not be the stuffy old "Shussh, Shussh" atmosphere
of old, most parts of the facility need to maintain a certain level of deportment.
A separate adjacent coffee shop with an enclosed entrance from the library
would be fine. Of course if the coffee shop has a direct entrance to the
outside as well there might be a problem of materials being removed from
the library through that route. If the coffee shop is included in the building
I think it should be close to the reading/lounge area but still preferably
isolated by a buffer of some sort; a corridor, checkout desk area etc.
Archives: It seems incredible to me that one would
consider building a new library without including local historical archives,
maps, local histories etc. The new library must make space available for
this. This is a high priority for me.
Genealogy: As genealogy is one of the fastest growing
recreational pursuits today, I would like to see provision for genealogical
materials as well. More and more material is becoming available in digital
format but microfilm and microfiche readers will still be required
for some time. Layout of the library to place that equipment close to both
the genealogy and general research/reference area would be advantageous.
The primary focus of this area would be materials pertinent to the local
Filming, transcribing, digitizing area: One of the impediments
to the increasing use of digital materials is the time and effort required
for converting such material to the digital formats. Genealogical societies
all over the world are putting a lot of effort (volunteer manhours) into
this task. I would like to see a space available for doing some of this
work in-house. The goal would be to preserve the local histories and archives
in digital format for easy access at the computer stations thus preserving
the integrity of the original materials.
Computer/internet systems: I foresee ever increasing
use of computer technology, not just for internet access, but hopefully
for an ever expanding intranet system inside the library. More and more magazines
and periodicals are becoming available in CDRom or DVDrom format. This provides
a very compact way to retain these old periodicals. I expect there
will be more and more self-study material available in these formats too,
as well as the archival materials mentioned above. So I would like to see
an expanded computer use throughout the library, not all terminals necessarily
lumped in one location. In this context I can foresee increased computer
use for physically and visually impaired persons. After 25 years or so of
personal computer development, technology is finally getting to the
point of being really useful. Computers with voice command and synthesized
speech software coupled with scanners could greatly increase access to all
library materials for the visually and physically impaired. These computers
would of course have to be located away from the library quiet areas. And
as children are increasingly computer literate I would like to see some specialized
systems for them as well. This would be most beneficial to those children
that don't have access to these at home.
Quiet Study Areas: As the library must still function
as a place for concentrated reading and study it is imperative that quiet
areas are maintained. Personally I would like to see even the main lounge/reading
room preserve this standard. In an ever more hectic and noisy world people
need a quiet oasis.
Auditorium/ lecture hall: It seems that in the opposition to the
Quinte Cultural Centre there was undue concern that it would in some way
compete with the revitalized, free enterprise, Empire Theatre. I do not
share that view but in any case a smaller separate facility of perhaps 200
to 250 seats is very much needed. Rather than the general multi-purpose areas
with stacking chairs I would like to see a more formalized small auditorium/
lecture area. This would allow much more comfortable seating and permanent
seating positions allowing better sight lines for everyone. I envisage this
area as having a small stage area with suitable space for a
piano and small ensembles to perform. It would also have white boards for
lectures, pull down screen and built-in projection equipment. I suspect that
in order to enhance the versatility of the space some additional area at
the back of this hall could provide for display tables, additional temporary
It would be an asset to have flip up writing tables on the seats. An
area similar to the Alumni Hall at Loyalist College comes to mind. This
would provide a comfortable, inviting area for meet the author sessions,
meetings (library , historical society etc.), small musical presentations,
Gallery Spaces: I would like to be able to maintain
at least the gallery space of the present library. This too would be significantly
enhanced by a separate dedicated space. Some additional space along a not
overly busy corridor could also be used depending on the design of the building.
Some of the separate gallery space could perhaps double for arts and craft
classes and that sort of thing.
Book Shop: Many new libraries are including a book
shop area; generally operated by their friends of the library group. This
could sell surplus books form the library's collection and donated used
books etc. Perhaps it could also sell some small craft items or souvenirs
etc. Ideally I would like to see this have for sale CDROM collections of
local history etc. produced by library volunteers. The intention of this
would not be to compete with either local booksellers or other charity outlets
but to make library materials available for more distant visitors. This shop
could perhaps also sell local consignment artwork displayed in the vicinity
of the shop area.
Music Library: I would also like to see (or hear)
a music library containing a vastly larger music collection. The
intention would not be to duplicate the latest top 40 but make available
some of the vast collection of recorded music over the last 100 years. I
could see local residents donating their old record collections which could
make up the bulk of the collection. Perhaps local radio stations could do
so as well if the best of their collections have not already been disposed
of. The idea would be to provide an opportunity to listen to a much broader
range of recorded music than is easily available today. Vinyl records being
as fragile as they are, and a whole generation never having learned how
to handle such media, I would suggest that they generally would not be lent
out. To preserve the quality of them it would be better to transfer them
to digital media if copyright would permit that. It seems to me that might
be possible if only a single digital copy were made and the original vinyl
Links to Websites: On my website http://www.meales.com I have
set up a New Belleville Library webpage. Just follow the link from the
This page contains some links to internet sites that I think can help
bring out your ideas of what our new library should contain.