After the raw emotionality of the most recent library board meeting, everyone needs to retreat to a calm, centered haven for reflection.
After so many years of ups and downs, and uncertainties; after an almost complete turnover of the board's composition; after spurts of community input followed by a void, the lack of a clear goal and a resulting lack of momentum; it is no wonder that an aura of discouragement has hovered over the attempts to move forward.
What do we have on the plus side of the column? We still have a beautiful site overlooking Udall's Pond, even the ospreys have deemed it suitable for nesting. We still have talented, dedicated librarians, the real backbone of any library of excellence, and a hard-working support staff. We still have popular, creative programming for all age groups, even teens who flock to Levels. We still have a public that strongly values learning.
We have a building which has served us well for many years, and even tho' it is shabby around the edges and its repair needs are increasing with age, it still conveys a welcome and a warmth in atmosphere that people love.
The board faces a difficult task with many hours of hard work ahead. The board needs the help and support of the public. But do we really need big, mega-meetings? We have already had those.
Taking a page from other successful ventures where there has been small group, hands-on input, we are suggesting that appropriate advisory committees might be invaluable to the board. For example, why not have a Children's Library Advisory Committee made up of parents and staff to make sure that the needs of that population are thoughtfully addressed in a renovation? Why not a Levels Committee including the teens and parents of teens along with its able staff? Why not create a committee to explore alternative sites for programming during construction?
There are so many things that we could get enthusiastic and excited about. Think of it. Our library could be the first "green" building on the peninsula, one that will save energy and provide a healthier environment for everyone.
The more that members of the public have a sense of ownership in the design of a renovated building, the more active they will be in helping to get a referendum passed. This is especially important in hard economic times that we now face.
Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, Robert D. Putnam said it best in Better Together: Restoring the American Community: "Death-of-the-library scenarios define libraries as information repositories. If they were no more than that, then their eventual displacement by more convenient electronic repositories would make perfect sense. But the library is a gathering place, too, like an old town square or the corner grocer. People may go to the library looking mainly for information, but they find each other there."
This is not a time to point fingers, but rather a time to join hands.
Let's find each other.
- Carol Frank