Granted, it’s been a little quieter than anticipated on the library’s construction site this past month. No good vibrations. No shake, rattle and roll. No dust in the air or people walking around in hard hats. No activity to amaze us when we look out our windows. As we head into May, the lot just north of the library looks pretty much like it looked at the beginning of April. So, what’s the holdup?
The holdup is that we are waiting for submittal and approval of the steel building plans before we can forge ahead. The foundation prep work cannot begin until the plans for the steel building are confirmed. In the meantime, library architect, Joel Westervelt, has been busy reviewing material samples and over 800 pages of product data sheets and shop drawings associated with the project. Mr. Westervelt assures me: “…the submittal process is a crucial part of construction. These procedures help minimize potential conflicts and additional costs during construction. Also, note that the steel building, once on site, will be erected in approximately a month.”
Work on building our new library is progressing. You just can’t see it at the moment because it’s all happening in the offices of the general contractor, the architect, the public works department, and the project engineers. Before we know it, we’ll be feeling the shake, rattle and roll of good vibrations again.
While we’re on the subject of building a new library… somebody reminded me the other day that some folks in Camp Verde still wonder why we are going for such a big library. Couldn’t we manage with half the size (see 17,000 Square Feet for Books? Really?). Even at 8,500 square feet, it would still be a lot bigger than the current one. True, it would be bigger, but it would not leave much space for the most important element of our library – the people who use it. I will remind you up front that we do not plan to fill up the place with books, movies and other stuff. Today’s libraries and the libraries of the future are more about making room for people, allowing people to interact and make connections with information and with one another, not collecting stuff that sits on shelves and collects dust.
One of the reasons public libraries have survived in this age of advancing technology is the ability of leaders in the field to re-envision 21st century library services. Rather than being threatened by the ubiquity of information and the spread of technology, librarians have embraced technology as an opportunity to learn, change, and share that knowledge and experience with library users (see Taking It to the Next Level). What we are doing is not essentially different from what librarians have done for hundreds of years – providing access to individuals and connecting them to the knowledge or information they seek/need. Now, however, we have to be a bit more creative and innovative as we apply new technologies to our mission and purpose.
As librarians, we have made major changes in the way we deliver services. There are not nearly as many shushing, frowning and distant librarians working away in dark, dusty offices as there are talking, laughing, librarians with open doors or desks out on the floor. At Camp Verde Community Library, we especially enjoy serving our patrons and helping people get what they need/want from the library. Our patrons have responded to the changing atmosphere in the library by using what we offer and seeking interaction with librarians and each other. These changes have made the library more like a community center than the traditional library (see New Library: A Place for People and Community Involvement).
Currently, as I sit here typing in our small, old, crowded slump block building we have people using all 10 public Internet computers, several people using their own laptops wherever they can setup, kids using all 6 Internet computers in the Children’s Library and parents sitting with children at the early literacy computer stations. A couple of kids have pulled out toys and are engaging in imaginative play while their mom selects picture books to take home with them. I can hear conversations between people sitting around, see some folks browsing the stacks for book selections or periodicals, see a couple of men sitting and reading the newspaper, and hear the beeping of the checkout/check-in stations. Earlier, a group of writers sat discussing, laughing and learning in our one “meeting” room, I was approached by a couple who want to learn how to use their tablet, saw a colleague helping a patron use the Job-Helps computer, assisted a patron sending a FAX, helped someone place a hold, renewed items over the phone for a patron, and helped a patron save a file to a flash-drive then showed her how to email it as an attachment. Now a group of half a dozen ranchers from Rainbow Acres have come in to pick out books and movies. It’s a typical Monday. A steady stream of activity, not our busiest day of the week since there are no children’s or teen’s programs scheduled. Still, we find people are surprised when we say it’s time to close at 4:30. They would stay longer if we were open longer and yet, a year ago we weren’t even open on Mondays at all. Now we are connecting people to what they need in their community library Monday through Saturday.
Working weekly for 3 years now, observing how people use our space and fielding requests from community members, I’d say our biggest need is room for people to connect with one another and with library programs and resources. The more space we have opened up to be used by people, the more people have come to use the space – from the table by the window with outlets for laptops to the patio with access to Wi-Fi 24/7. All the activity we have makes our library a fairly noisy place. We have no quiet spaces for people working on job applications, taking online classes or having a test proctored. Children often sit on the floor with their moms or caregivers during or after children’s programs. We like to see people interacting with one another, visiting, reading, hanging out, etc. but there is no place where families can do this without being right in the walkway between staff offices. When teens, children and families fill our Children’s Library during weekly Teen Game Nights, the room becomes an obstacle course for anyone trying to get from one side to the other.
In the new library, we will have room to separate the noisy activities and quiet activities to serve both needs while making more room for more people. The building is designed with meeting rooms, meeting spaces, study rooms, study spaces, training areas, patios, reading nooks and more. It will be both an asset and resources for Camp Verde, something to be proud of and used. I can hardly wait for you to see it. Any person with any question about the design of the new library is invited to stop by and look at the plans. Don’t ask your neighbor about the library. Stop by and ask the librarian. I’d love to give you a personal tour and the inside scoop on why we are building the library we are building.