Archive for Monday, November 25, 2002

Group seeks fitting future for building with proud past

Learning center, shelter suggested as uses

November 25, 2002


Downtown's landmark Carnegie Library building may one day be a center for literacy and lifelong learning and named after Langston Hughes.

The plan is a rough one, and it is still being shaped by a 30-member group convened to explore options for the nearly century-old building at 11th and Vermont streets. The Lawrence Arts Center vacated the building earlier this year after 25 years.

But one group member said there was strong consensus to pay tribute to the Lawrence poet, who visited the Carnegie Library often as a child.

"This person, Langston Hughes, really embodied the ideas the group had talked about," such as community involvement, exploration and many different kinds of literacies, said Rich Minder, collaborative projects coordinator with the Success by 6 Coalition.

Carrying on the legacy of Langston Hughes is one of a couple of goals the group has in developing a use for the building. The other is to provide an opportunity for the community, maintaining the ideals Andrew Carnegie envisioned when establishing the Carnegie Foundation to help fund construction of libraries around the world beginning in 1891.

"Carnegie gave this as a gift to the people of Lawrence, and we wanted that to be one of the driving principles behind this," Minder said, " ... to be a place where people participate."

Minder is one of a few members of a group who got together nearly a year ago to explore ideas for the future use of the building that served as a public library for nearly 70 years.

Minder said the concept for the building was still in formative stages and the group was still mulling how to define the community center. The group plans to meet next month for the second of four planned meetings to look at models of learning centers and how Carnegie buildings have been used in other communities.

In February, a subgroup is expected to submit a proposal to the city for consideration. Two city commissioners - Mayor Sue Hack and Commissioner Mike Rundle - are roundtable participants.

The Lawrence City Commission has set aside nearly $500,000 for rehabilitation work on the building.

On Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will discuss possible interim uses for the building as it awaits remodeling.

One proposal put forth by advocates for the homeless is that the building be used as a shelter, particularly for homeless people under the influence of drugs or alcohol who are turned away from other shelters.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.