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 population.

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 seating etc.
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, mini-courses etc.

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 format retained.

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 index page.
This page contains some links to internet sites that I think can help bring out your ideas of what our new library should contain.

John Meale Nov 27, 2003

Return to Library main page

Created Nov 27, 2003 by John R. Meale

Please remember to change the reply to address if you wish a reply