Archive for September, 2009

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Refining the library’s design so art *can* meet architecture

September 20, 2009
Rendering 9.16.09
The view from South Third Street

At the last workshop we discussed window and sill heights and the importance of carrying the tile roofing element  around the south addition from a design perspective.  The practical reality is that we can’t drop the windows low enough to see a top arch on the windows in that area.  So we pared down from three on each end to one arched window on each side of the bowed area. Because there will be fewer arched windows, we can afford to provide more architectural detail on the ones that remain.  During the workshop, Del Wilson (of Uihlein-Wilson Architects) described the importance of art meeting architecture…and we found a way to do that. 

If you’d like to see the updated interior plans you can do that at our library’s website here.  We also have them on display at the library.  The changes continue to evolve as a result of important input from many.  Thank you to all who have had a hand in recommending, revising, refining…helping us write our library’s story.

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Observations from a visit to the Houston Public Library

September 17, 2009
I was in Houston with my kids several weeks ago.  One of my children actually isn’t a child anymore as evidenced by the fact that he went to Houston to stay for a year and I was merely a sightseer.  But that’s another post, in another blog, I think.    (I just can’t think of a way to weave a discussion of a parent’s  complex set of emotions while emptying the nest into a library expansion blog.  Maybe if I wasn’t so tired from my “vacation” I could, but I’m coming up short at the moment.)

Back to the point.  On one of our days exploring Houston, we went to the public library.  (Doesn’t everybody drag their kids to the library while traveling?)

It was great timing to see the Houston Public Library because these days I’m in search of good ideas for our library building. 

With thanks to the Houston Public Library for a great experience and their warm hospitality!  Here is what I observed in Houston:

  • Underground parking onsite…for a price.  It only took three trips around the building for me to realize I wasn’t going to find free parking anywhere.  If I wanted to see the library, I needed to open up my wallet.
  • A large computer area with dozens and dozens of computers for people to use…and a waiting line for booking them.  They looked to be a precious commodity, very well-used.
  • A coffee shop in the entry area, it was very brightly lit and in a great location.  I would have loved to sample a cup of java but my kids were more interested in exploring than sitting.
  • A very friendly staff.   It always make such a difference in a library.  Kudos to the library for remembering how important it is to make people feel welcome…even visitors whose only contribution is a few bucks for the parking.
  • A teen area that had a striking entry wall (as seen in the photo below) covered with the words (in a variety of languages) that meant this was a meeting place and displaying a sign that made it clear it was their meeting place…not a place for adults or younger kids.  (I did peek in, I must admit, and saw some very futuristic chairs that my daughter made sure I knew I wasn’t supposed to try.)
Houston Public Library young adult entrance

Houston Public Library teen entrance

Our staff and board members have visited quite a number of  libraries during our years of planning.  We’ve got a few more left to see.  We’re now far enough into our planning that we have specific things we’re looking to examine in action, including an operational RFID system.  We’re not going to far away places (there’s no budget for that) but it’ll be an adventure just the same!  I’m a firm believer in learning from others.   
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The importance of early donations

September 14, 2009

In a capital campaign, the early stage of fundraising is extremely important.   That’s when you ask potential donors to commit to your project.  If you are successful securing initial gifts and pledges, you can move forward with your project.  If you are not, you obviously need to stop and reassess.

We were very fortunate to receive important commitments over the last year, especially given the tumultuous economic climate.  Having that support allowed us to move into the public phase  of our capital campaign this summer.    I’d like to take a moment to thank the people, companies, and organizations who said “yes” early on.  Those who shared our vision and agreed to help may not know just how important they were.  But they were; they were key to our ability to progress with our plans.

I think the remarks from our city manager, John Wilmet, at our library’s kickoff event were excellent and should be shared to give proper credit to those who believed in our project.  We have been blessed with additional important donations since then.  We’ll list those in future blog posts.  But today I’ll share with you the listing of the first donations we received by way of John Wilmet’s remarks at the Foster Growth capital campaign kickoff:

I have the honor of announcing and presenting the major gifts that have been secured for the capital campaign.  This project is certainly an example of public/private partnership of which we can all be proud.  The city of Fort Atkinson values its library.   We understand that everyone plays a role in its ability to be the best possible library for our community.  After all, it is not up to someone else.  It is our responsibility.  When shared, the dream can become a reality.  We would like to sincerely thank those who responded to our request for donations in the early phase of this capital campaign.  Because you committed to our project early on, we were able to move forward with confidence during a time when the economic climate indicated it might be best not to.  There were many reasons to continue on in our planning not the least of which is that the library facility absolutely needs upgrading and expansion. Additionally, the building climate is competitive and library use is soaring.  We’ve planned the timing on our debt carefully and staying the course with our city’s capital improvement plan provides stability over the course of time which is always important to taxpayers and vital to our financial health.

The lead gift from the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation in the amount of $1.5 million dollars amounts to half of our fundraising goal of $3.0 million.  I think, on behalf of the citizens of Fort Atkinson, it is safe to say that your investment in our library will pay dividends well into the future.   As the city manager, I believe that the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation’s unwavering support of this (and many projects) does make all the difference in the world and really allows this community to thrive.  Thank you.

A gift of $350,000 has also been secured with the donor wishing to remain anonymous.  This gift, an incredible example of generosity, speaks to us all because it makes a difference for our citizens, one by year, year by year.  We are honored and appreciative to be the recipient of such philanthropy.  Deepest thanks for that.

Philip Jones, of Jones Dairy Farm, was unable to be with us today.  He asked that we read the following:

“Both the Jones Dairy Farm and the Jones family have a long tradition of supporting important community projects.  The library expansion and renovation project is probably the best example I can think of in terms of impact. All of our citizens benefit from a library that is healthy and vibrant.  The businesses benefit too because we see the improvement in the lives of our employees as a result of access to the world of information.  Local tourism benefits because it is yet another place for travelers to explore.  Our community benefits because there is a demonstrated return on investment as a result of a library in a community.  The facility, while not the only factor in providing excellent library services, is a key component.

It’s always been important to Jones Dairy Farm to be an active participant in helping our community, fostering growth at opportune times.  Libraries are more important now than ever.  We are proud to be an early donor to the library’s capital campaign.”

We thank Philip Jones, the entire Jones family, and Jones Dairy Farm for their generosity and consistent commitment to Fort Atkinson.  They have secured the naming rights to the adult collections.

A gift of $150,000 from the Fort Community Credit Union allowed the Credit Union to secure naming rights for the community meeting room.  We couldn’t be more grateful to the Credit Union for agreeing to fund the much needed expanded space for our citizens to gather and meet.  With after-hours accessibility, we know this will be enormously beneficial to our citizens.  This generous gift was especially appreciated because it was given in the early stages of our campaign and allowed us to continue planning our design with confidence that we were able to meet our early financial obligations.  The Fort Community Credit Union has demonstrated the spirit behind the word “community” in their name.  Thank you.

I’m delighted to report a gift of $150,000 from PremierBank.  PremierBank has secured the naming rights to what we are calling our premier entrance.  As we’ve just finished another round of design work, I can tell you that we are putting significant thought and effort into the design of our entry and checkout area.  At the moment, the plan calls for the staircase to be placed adjacent to the existing historic bow window in the 1931 section of the building.  Allowing people to walk next to it, see it, and touch it is one way that we are attempting to rediscover the parts of the library that have been covered in over time.  It is one of the reasons this library will be considered even more of an architectural gem at the end of the project.  Thank you to PremierBank for demonstrating that you are interested in helping us be a premier library.  Your commitment to our project is applauded and appreciated.

The Highsmith Family secured the naming rights to the Young Adult Library.  The library has never before had an area dedicated to the young adults in our community.  A space for them is considered very important in a modern-day library and we are proud to be able to allocate space specifically for this age group.  As teens move into adulthood, it is important to respond to their unique needs in an effort to reach them and teach them.  The Highsmith family understands libraries and their responsibilities to their communities.   We are grateful that they have committed to provide such generous financial support which allows us to deliver on this responsibility for the first time in our history.

Finally, we have received the following major donations that I’d like to announce:

The Spacesaver Corporation has committed to making a substantial in-kind donation for shelving.  As the home of the Spacesaver Corporation we are so appreciative that they continue to support our community.  The gift of past mobile shelving as well as fixed shelving units, the generosity of the company has allowed our library to be enormously efficient.  Since efficiencies are important to this project, we couldn’t be more appreciative.  Your corporate citizenship is to be applauded.

Naming rights to two study rooms have been secured.  The Negus family is generously sponsoring one and the Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson the other.  Because one of the areas of need in our community is for small group study rooms we have considered these a high priority in our design.  Allowing tutoring and small group studying to take place in a room that is sized for the group is not only an efficient use of space, it is much more desirable for the people.  Thank you to the Negus family and the Rotary Club for your gifts to help the education of our citizens, helping them to help each other.

We do have a few more naming opportunities available.  I use the word “opportunity” because this is, indeed, an opportunity.  The chance to make a gift to our community through our improved library will not come along again…at least probably not in my lifetime.  Please contact either Connie Meyer or me if you’d like to discuss securing a naming opportunity.

Those mentioned today are surely deserving of thanks from us all.  It is through their willingness to give to others that we are able to move forward in creating a library that will serve our community in the best possible way for many years to come.

I was informed yesterday that we’ve surpassed the $1 million dollars pledged of our $1.5 million campaign. While it might seem that we are home free and don’t need you, I can assure you that we do.  Five hundred thousand dollars is a great deal of money.  We have a lot of work to do to fundraise that many dollars.  Thank you for your help and support.

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Cents and sensibility

September 10, 2009

Just the other day I read an article in Kiplinger’s entitled Fabulous freebies. The list of fabulous freebies includes “free movies and books from the public library. ” It’s number 15, among some other good ideas.  There have been many similar articles citing the library as an excellent choice if you are interested in saving money and still having incredible access to resources.  It just makes “cents.”

That reminded me that even though the timing on our capital campaign might not be the best in the world, the timing on our relevance to our community couldn’t be better.   The library board discussed that very thing as we were deciding whether or not we should head into the fundraising phase of our project just as the stock market plummeted last  Fall.  How could we ask people to be generous and philanthropic now?  But then again, how could we not when our usage is soaring and continues to demonstrate our importance to our citizens?  Also, wasn’t there opportunity in moving forward with a construction project at a time when prices had either stabilized or dropped on building materials?  And what about the fact that the project would employ people in a vast array of construction trades during a time where companies are looking for work as opposed to too busy to bid on the project?

Most things in life have both opportunities and threats, pros and cons, good and bad.   I’ve always believed the “double edged sword” is worth acknowledging and understanding.  Delving deeper generally allows you to find a place of balance…and likely your best solution.

Every day I see people using the library to research, study, examine, explore.  Whether they are looking up the review in Consumer Reports or studying alternative investments, people use resources to help them make good decisions and, ultimately, to make sense of their world.  We are honored to help in the process.

This actually reminds me of our library’s vision statement:

The Dwight Foster Public Library seeks to ignite the quest for knowledge and understanding and provide the necessary resources for life’s journey for each member of our community.  Our facility, programs, and collections must be the anchor of our community, as we strive to preserve the record of history, inspire discovery, and make accessible the vast body of information so that all can learn, share, grow, and contribute.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me longer than it should have to cite our library’s vision statement in this blog.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it every day.  It’s the driving force behind all we do and the reason we have moved forward with fostering growth in Fort Atkinson.

So libraries really are about cents…and sensibility.  (My apologies to Jane Austen; I just couldn’t resist.)

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Things are cooking at our library

September 4, 2009

Things are cooking with the library expansion and renovation project in more ways than one!  We had another round of design workshops this week and made some really smart changes to the plan.  I’ll post the updated plans and renderings when I have them.

The fundraising is moving along on schedule thanks to the incredible generosity of people of the Fort Atkinson area and beyond.

Also, the long awaited, much heralded library cookbook, compiled by the staff, board members, and folks from the Friends of the Library, is hot off the press and now available for purchase.  It’s a compilation of the recipes from nine years of annual cookbook pamphlets as well as a few recipes from the cookbooks of the early 1980s and also includes some brand new recipes added as a bonus.   Tried and true recipes, this cookbook will be the one you turn to first!  It has an index in the back making it easy to find the perfect recipe for any occasion.  Priced at just $10 with the profit going to the library’s building fund, we hope that you’ll want to buy multiple copies and give them as gifts to all the cooks on your list.cookbook

The order form is available on our website for those of you who don’t live nearby.

You might want to know that our library system’s materials transit van delivery driver has actually told us that our library has difficult and problematic accessibility, the worst of all the libraries he visits…but that our delectable treats make up for it.  (Okay, he didn’t use the word delectable, but I’m sure it’s what he meant.)

Many of the recipes are in this very cookbook…tried and true.  Just ask the van guy.

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