Archive for Saturday, August 6, 2011

Plans may not meet goal of ‘signature’ library structure

August 6, 2011


Not long ago, a Lawrence city commissioner said he wanted a new or redesigned city library that would be looked upon as a “signature” building.

This raises several questions. Does the current City Commission want a building that will be known for years to come as a credit to those at City Hall who gave their final OK to the structure? Do they want a building that will be known as a signature structure for the architects who designed it? Do they want the building to be remembered for its cost or possibly how much the costs exceeded original projections?

Do they want it known and remembered as the project that forced a “temporary” library to be used for one, two or three years before the new, remodeled, renovated and expanded building was ready for public use? And are there other “signature” elements of this building, such as designing it for current library needs and uses rather than for what those using a “library” 15 or 20 years from now will want in the way of location, services and facilities?

One knowledgeable and experienced architect told this writer he was shocked at what has been proposed and apparently agreed upon by city commissioners. He said the public has been presented a pretty drawing but that it is an “unbelievable” bad solution for a new or expanded library.

He said costs are likely to be awesome, probably more than an entirely new building would cost and more than the cost of two branch libraries on the east and west sides of town. He said the idea of expanding the current building on each side, rather than adding a major wing or extension to the south, causes all kinds of costs and troubles with new foundations, footings, new electrical, new rooflines, new mechanical, new exterior walls and a total disruption of the library.

City commissioners have asked for public comments on the plan, and this writer has received many, apparently because some very knowledgeable people, who don’t want their names to be known, are extremely disappointed with what the city and its residents are buying — or what they will get for the millions of dollars that will be spent and borrowed.

Some commissioners have said the public has spoken and it is too late to make any changes. But is it?

One critic said it is “incredible” what is being shoved down the throats of Lawrence residents and taxpayers. Others have said several city commissioners are “totally off-base” on this project, while others have said it is important the project be done as currently planned in order to support the downtown. There are many who continue to favor the idea of branch library facilities and question the City Commission argument that staffing expenses would be too great.

Another comment: “They (city commissioners) claim the public has spoken, but does that mean we are supposed to turn off our brains? It would be better to tear down the entire structure and build a new facility without all the constraints imposed by trying to work around the current facility, making additions on all sides, rather than to add one major expansion to the south of the building.”

Another critic questioned whether this project has been driven by downtown developers rather than what is in the best interests of the city. What will the people of Lawrence want and need in the not-so-distant future?

A columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently wrote, “In its heyday, Borders accounted for more than 12 percent of the books sold in America. Barnes and Noble (which now accounts for 30 percent of book sales) and independent book sellers (10 percent) will pick up some of the business. Amazon will pick up most of the rest, either in paper or Kindle versions, which now outsell physical books on its site.”

The columnist, Kevin Horrigan, continues, “The scariest thing about all of this is how little it matters to an increasing number of people … nearly half of people ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure. Among college seniors, in 2005, 61 percent said they either don’t read for pleasure at all or did so for less than an hour a week.”

What does this say about future libraries? What kind of library should city officials, architects and visionary and knowledgeable people in the library field be calling for in Lawrence?

If Lawrence is to have a “signature” library, let’s make sure it gains that designation because of its innovations, location, design, cost and ability to meet the needs of patrons for years to come and not because it lacked vision and input from individuals respected for their knowledge of future trends in the library business.

What’s the old saying about trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?


John Hamm 6 years, 6 months ago

HEAR! HEAR! Too bad that in Lawrence it will fall upon deaf ears.......

somebodynew 6 years, 6 months ago

Wow !! I once again agree with Dolph. This whole thing has been "driven by downtown developers rather than what is in the best interests of the city." I can almost see this as a miniture of the State Capitol Building - just a never ending expense that is for all practical purposes, outdated before it is ever complete.

The Commissioners should remember that the "people have spoken" about the spending of money- not on an exact plan. Seems that just couldn't be presented before lots of money was spent.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

Well, we could have demanded that they present a plan before we agreed to finance it.

Phillbert 6 years, 6 months ago

The day a society stops building public structures its citizens are proud of is the day that society starts to decline.

WilburM 6 years, 6 months ago

So now everyone is an architect and a critic, based on some drawings that lots of folks haven't even looked at carefully. There's a whole new look to the building, a very nice green space, and (yes) a larking garage that has been substantially modified to minimize its impact. How is this a "developers'" project.

Once again, Dolph presents/conjures up some anonymous quotes, adds a non-sequiter ending, and we have dire predictions.

The public voted for this, the process has been open and responsive. But it''s more fun and easier to attack.

Mark Thompson 6 years, 6 months ago

Wow, another negative opinion piece from Dolph, now that's a surprise! Is there anything positive going on in Lawrence, at KU,...? If you just read this weekly column, you would think this was the biggest armpit in the world. Specific to the library issue, it was put to a public vote and the public supported the move. Sounds like sour grapes, could it be that Dolph had a personal interest in another option that wasn't chosen? Finally, this "journalism" of "A (fill in the blank) told this writer that....." is a shoddy way of developing an opinion piece.

Phil Minkin 6 years, 6 months ago

Once again Dolph has combined poor writing skills with questionable and vague sources to completely cloud an issue. There have been several meetings where the architects have presented their plan and listened to public comments. There have been major changes in response to these comments as well as those from the HRC, neighbors(OWL & Downtown) and the library group that have been great improvements. Criticism from "One knowledgeable and experienced architect" hardly makes a survey. If one reads architectural criticism, there is always a wide range of views. "some very knowledgeable people, who don’t want their names to be known". Do they have their own ax to grind? Have they spoken at the public forums? Why don't they want to go public? The only thing that is " driven by downtown developers" may be the idea of adding another level of parking to the garage that was included in the bond issue. This writer wishes the editorial writer would quit talking to his small circle of friends and attend the next meeting to offer his views.

Ward 6 years, 6 months ago

There was a bond voted on by the citizens of Lawrence that was specific to the expansion and building at the current site with a new parking structure. It seems the writer is mixing select facts with select comments, fiction, and biased writing.

If there are true, reasonable concerns about this project, then please take the responsible and direct approach by participating in the discourse and pubic process. Attend the public meetings, get on the Library Board, offer suggestions or constructive criticism. There are many effective ways to participate.

beaujackson 6 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Simons is correct in questioning this project. Lawrence taxpayers have been led down a primrose path, with the pied pipers being the city comms. and an uninformed library board, with "pretty pictures", with little or no expert input.

$18,000,000..00 for only 20,000 sq. ft. of library expansion figures out to be $900.00 per square foot - an extravagant use of taxpayer money. Building another building around the present structure, and then tearing down the interior is the height of folly, especially for only 20,000 sq. feet that is unnecessary. This will be looked at as a monument to stupidity.

Many architectural firms would likely suggest the current plan is impractical.

A three story parking garage is not only extravagant, but an eyesore. Two stories would be sufficient, with entrances on Vt. & KY. to avoid expensive ramps.

This project seems to be driven by a few downtown business owners in the 600 & 700 blocks that would benefit greatly from a taxpayer financed parking garage near their businesses, and (they) could probably care less about the library.

Most Lawrence residents would benefit more from a two or three satellite libraries for a fraction of the cost of this extravagant project.

The whole project should be scrapped and re-thought before squandering $18,000.000.00!

Good for you, Dolph, in (finally) bringing out the folly of this project!

Richrox1 6 years, 6 months ago

Does any politician realize that libraries ain't what they used to be?? Do taxpayers really need to provide free video game access so kids can become fat and lazy and their brain can go numb? Is such a grandiose plan and expenditure of tax money in the best interests of the taxpaying public? Doubt it! Looks like they're doing whatever they can to have their names inscribed on the side of the if that will make them feel like they're some kind of visionaries or "founding father" types. Echhh! Enough of this incompetence!

Mark Thompson 6 years, 6 months ago

The most appropriate time for questioning the project is prior to the public vote that favored the expansion. Once the public has spoken, then rather than revisiting all the issues that were addressed prior to the vote, one can lend their voice to "helpful" suggestions. However, that is not Dolph's typical approach. No, it is sharing anonymous quotes from fellow critics and portraying them as "fact" and "commonly accepted".

usnsnp 6 years, 6 months ago

A couple of observations, bond was vote on by public, yes and if you did not vote you have no room to complain. Satalite librarys would take more money to run because it would entail hireing more people to staff then and you would also have to transport books from the main library. Maintaining several satalite librarys and the main library would cost more. According to the State Government when the SRS office is closed the people can always use the computers in the Library if they dont have one, more customers. Last, this notion that Books are gowing away in the near future is wrong, there are more books being published today than there ever has been, only a small number get digitized.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

I voted against it, so I feel my right to complain is fully in force.

The idea of site specific annexes was not considered - they would, for example, house reference materials and meeting space. This would free up space and parking at the main location, and not require extra staff.

We could probably rent some space in the Tanger mall fairly inexpensively and house such an annex.

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