Archive for Sunday, December 29, 2013

Library emphasizing programs over quiet

December 29, 2013


Where windows, walls and books used to be, a worker moves through the empty interior of the Lawrence Public Library during the continuing construction and renovation on the building earlier this year.

Where windows, walls and books used to be, a worker moves through the empty interior of the Lawrence Public Library during the continuing construction and renovation on the building earlier this year.

Libraries were once known for being closed-off, stuffy, "shush!" kinds of places. But now, it's all about providing spaces, putting on programs, inviting people over and talking.

"As the library evolves, that's what people are wanting increasingly — more engagement, more community conversations and programs," said Kathleen Morgan, the executive director of the Lawrence Public Library Foundation who will soon take on a more active role in the library's marketing and programming.

As patrons' needs change, Lawrence's library is strengthening its emphasis on programming and outreach.

The clearest example of this lies within the blueprints of the library's renovations, under construction and aiming to open in summer 2014.

An additional 20,000 square feet will mean seven more meeting rooms, new programming spaces specifically for children and teens, a creative center with a recording studio included and a doubling of the seats in the auditorium, according to Jeni Daley, library spokeswoman.

More than that, though, the library has found a way to expand programming. Morgan said the library has not spent much more of its own money on its various literary events, but thanks to outside support and grants, it's still been able to pour more dollars into them.

She said donations from the Kansas Health Foundation and the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library have had a significant boost on its Summer Reading Program and Read Across Lawrence events.

Also in the mix are the two largest grants the library has ever received, both of which have come in the past four months — $250,000 for an authors lecture series from the Ross and Marianna Beach Foundation and a $275,000 conditional grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that will go to programs and technology purchases.

Lately, programming at the library has been boxed in by the less-spacious temporary location on New Hampshire Street. There's a way to completely get around it — programming is down 36 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, according to a November budget report. But administrators have gotten creative.

Through 2013, the library partnered with outside businesses and held their events in locations such as the Castle Tea Room, Pachamama's, the Cider Gallery and others. The satellite programs have also allowed for the inclusion of alcohol at adult events, something that can't be done within library walls.

Polli Kenn, events and programs coordinator, said the library has fared so well at these functions that it could continue them even when the renovated library reopens.

But no matter where the event is, guests can be sure it won't strictly be a be-quiet-or-be-shushed kind of place.

"We want it to be a place where, sure, you can come and study and find some quiet in certain parts of the library, but it's also OK to talk and hear music in the library and hear a story or come see an entertainer," Morgan said.


Jean Robart 4 years ago

And where can one go in the library if he wants silence in order to. say, work on a paper for school? And he wants it to be reasonably close to the stacks he uses for information.

Emily Hampton 4 years ago

Glad to hear about the meeting rooms. Not glad to hear about the continued noise in the library. Call me old fashioned, but I really don't understand the idea that allowing noise in a library is progressive. Quiet is not stuffy, it's a relief and a needed environment for READING.

Lawrence Morgan 4 years ago

You are completely right. The problem is Mrs. Kathleen Morgan, who does not understand what a library's principal purpose is. It's fearful that she's going to take a greater role in programming. She should be out of the library scene, and another person who is more tuned to the library should take her place.

The Lawrence Public Library Foundation is off center in many ways. A good example is that the library should have built or bought small libraries throughout the city of Lawrence - such as, for example, what Palo Alto, CA has - and then seniors, young people and many others could take advantage of the library where they live, instead of having to ride bicycles, have cars, or even worse, not get to the library at all. She is a good example of a person who represents the fairly well-to-do in Lawrence, who just jump in their car and head off to the library, no matter how many miles that is and how much gas it takes. She doesn't represent the many middle and lower case persons of Lawrence who would like to have a small library near them, including many seniors. In many instances, seniors just stay home instead of negotiating the means to get to the library and back.

And, as I've said before, people could also pay many bills at these regional libraries, for example. as well as use the computers there. The Library Foundation is going in the completely wrong direction. But I suspect Ms. Morgan is going in exactly the direction she wants to go to - otherwise she would have taken very different approaches in the past, which led to the creation of the new library in the first place.

It will be a very different Lawrence with one central library, instead of what could instead have taken place - a number of small libraries throughout Lawrence -and most likely at far less cost.

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