Archive for the ‘Library Space Needs’ Category


Revising the revisions

July 18, 2009

Our architectural design workshops are taking place this summer.  During the workshops, the staff from Uihlein Wilson Architects spends two days asking questions and listening to responses.  Then we review and revise.  And then, of course,  review and revise the revisions. (I think it should be noted that all the people on Uihlein Wilson’s team are really good listeners.)

We’ve had great input from many people.  Thank you to everyone for that.  Folks come and go depending on their interest and expertise.   It has been so rewarding to participate in the process of redesigning a library.  Changes are recommended and then displayed on the screen for all to examine.   It’s helpful to see how the suggestion will look in proper context.  More questions are asked and answered.  Another image is displayed.  The architectural team is very patient and always willing to provide an image, discuss an engineering issue, and, of course, remind us to consider the cost/benefit of every decision.  It’s certainly no easy feat to be able to think so specifically and so globally, all at the same time.

And then the workshop is over.  That’s when we shift back into  homework mode.  (The architects have homework and so do we.  Sometimes questions can’t be answered immediately and more research is assigned.)

Thus the evolving design.  We’ve got more work to do but we are moving toward the end of the design process.  This fall the entire plan is slated to be finalized and approved by various officials.

Architect Mark Paschke, of Uihlein Wilson Architects, kindly provided the rendering below.  This view from the south shows how the new part of the building is being incorporated into the old.

It’s important to note that we are still in design mode and, therefore, this is subject to change.  (I believe any good attorney would advise me to offer that caveat.)   With that said, this is where we are today…

Rendering from the south provided by Uihlein Wilson Architects

Rendering from the south provided by Uihlein Wilson Architects


Planning the library of the future….crystal ball not required

July 17, 2009

When I was a children’s librarian, sometimes around Halloween I dressed as a fortune teller (calling myself Esmerelda) and used a crystal ball to help me “reveal” fortunes to children.

What a fun event for me.  I think the kids enjoyed it too because the surprise on their faces indicated pure delight as the blank fortune-cookie-sized paper magically transformed with words of good fortune…right before their very eyes.  (I can’t tell you how I did it.  You never know when I’ll be asked to resurrect Esmerelda.)

Over the years, I’ve wished that one could actually use a crystal ball to help plan the future.  It would be much easier to just know exactly what new technologies we can expect over the next 20 years.  We’ve had a great deal of change in our world over the last two decades and the pace of innovation doesn’t seem to be slowing down.  Our library facility needs to expertly respond to changes both tomorrow…and for a good long while.  It’s important to take responsibility for proper planning.

I’ve come to realize that planning never really stops.  If you think about it, our planning for this expansion and renovation began as a part of our building project in 1983.  At that time, the architect designed unfinished spaces and called for utilization of them within 20 years.   Perhaps the architects had a crystal ball when they predicted that because they were remarkably accurate in estimating when we would run out of space.

But many things have changed since then.  Materials certainly are getting smaller.  Miniaturization, digitization, and electronic access are not only the trend, they are the future.

So why do we need to expand?

A well written blog post by Jamie LaRue entitled Imagine the post Kindle public library discusses the reasons very succinctly and accurately.  LaRue’s view is that libraries will always need space for children’s collections, technology, meeting rooms,  servers, displays, and librarians…key people in making sense of it all.

I’d also emphasize that libraries have always been about access to content.  The library is able to provide for the many what many would not be able to provide for themselves.   The format is almost beside the point.  It’s about equitable access to content.  Libraries don’t just bridge the digital divide.  They fill it.

Sometimes access involves physical space, sometimes it doesn’t.  But computers take space just as books do.   Tables take space.  Kindles take space.  And so do people.

Our library building and renovation project is built upon a foundation of self-examination.   We have studied carefully our service needs and our building.  We have done that in the context of our community.   I’m pretty sure I know how to use spreadsheet software better than my crystal ball at this point.

We have looked forward as well, factoring in the changes we anticipate and building in flexibility to accommodate the (as yet) unknown.  Our plan allows for growth in certain collection areas but not all of them.  We are not planning for growth,  for example, in the non-fiction or reference book collections.  We have looked at a whole range of needs including meeting room and seating space, better work-flow, easier way finding, greatly improved accessibility, incorporation of technology for both public and staff, and general (and very critical) infrastructure upgrades.   We plan to capture those unfinished spaces and make them functional.

The actual design is being refined and finalized throughout the summer.    I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the plan is progressing.    Based on a solid understanding of our environment, fundamental commitment to the delivery of excellent library services, and the knowledge that operational flexibility is key…we are planning for our future.   As we’ve been working, we’ve taken stock of what we have and all realize how lucky we are.  We’ve got an unbelievable foundation with historic architectural details that are worthy of  preserving and rediscovering.   It is going to be both a beautiful and functional building!

No one really knows where our world will be in even five years.  But I think it’s safe to say that this library will be right here, providing content to our community and fostering personal growth for our citizens in the best way we know how.

We don’t need a crystal ball to see that.


Many thanks are due

August 7, 2008

For two full days recently, a group of people worked on planning the library of Fort Atkinson’s future.  Included in the process were: the library’s architectural team, library space planner, city council members, city staff, library board members, library friends, and staff members.

We are deeply grateful to everyone who participated.  Your input was invaluable.

We talked about all things library building related, including whether we would be able to incorporate new library services into the building.  For example, we talked about self service checkout and RFID (radio frequency identification) for materials handling.  These are two ways to increase efficiency while maximizing the staff’s ability to provide service.  Read the rest of this entry ?


What’s been done

June 3, 2008

Library Expansion Project Timeline

Spring 2001 – Library community survey completed (1,000 area residents surveyed)

December 2001/January 2002 – Library Board members and staff visit new or expanded library buildings (Janesville, Sun Prairie, Schaumberg, Gurnee)

Winter/Spring 2002 – Board and staff complete work sessions for Space Needs Assessment

April 1, 2002 – Board adopts final Space Needs Assessment which documents serious building, workflow and service shortcomings (Completed by planner George Lawson)

June 2002 – Architect selection process for Space Feasibility Study/Alternatives Assessment

August 2002Uilhlein Wilson Architects selected to do space feasibility study/alternatives assessment

October 2002 – Team comprised of library board members, library staff, and architectural firm’s staff visit new or expanded library buildings (Sussex, Whitefish Bay, Milwaukee, Waterford)

November 2002 – Community focus groups held for Space Feasibility Study

November 2002 – 3 day space planning workshop for feasibility study (conducted by Uihlein Wilson architectural staff with direction by George Lawson)

April 2003 – Letter to Friedens Church to request conversation about purchasing parsonage property

February 2004 – Letter to Friedens to request conversation about purchasing parsonage property

March – October 2004 – Conversations with Friedens Church

April 2004 – City secures Right of First Refusal on South Third Street property

October 2004Friedens Church informs Library that it is not interested in selling the parsonage property

May 2005 – Community Listening Sessions

Spring/Summer 2005 – Board and staff work sessions for building program

August 2005 – Library receives commitment of a gift of $30,000 to help purchase South Third Street property

September 2005 – Board adopts Library Building Program; City exercises option for right of first refusal on South Third Street property and makes an offer to purchase property; Offer to purchase is accepted by property owner and a closing date is set for January 2006

July 2006 – Library Board members and staff tour public libraries in New Berlin and Pewaukee

October 2006 – Letter to Friedens, Fort Atkinson Community Foundation gives approval to use library funds invested with the Foundation for property purchase

December 2005 – City examines South Third Street Property

January 2006 – City closes on South Third Street Property (private funds were used)

February 2006 – Library demolishes house on South Third Street Property (private funds were used)

2007 – Library board examines alternate possible location

January 2008 – Library Board decides to remain at current location based on detailed analysis of alternative options

April 2008 – Library interviews architects for library expansion project

May 2008 – Library makes decision to hire Uihlein Wilson Architects

Future Dates:

  • Summer 2008 – Program Verification Workshops to determine design/program
  • Fall 2008 – Begin fundraising.
  • Fall 2009 – Complete fundraising. Complete technical specifications.
  • Spring 2010 Begin construction process in January


Why expand the library?

May 16, 2008

We are moving into a very exciting time in the Dwight Foster Public Library’s history. As many of you know, we have been considering an expansion project seriously for approximately 8 years. We’ve done a great deal of work already…including studying the feasibility of expanding this building as well as studying another possible location. The library board of trustees recently made the official decision to stay in the current library building and expand on this site. We will be moving forward with hiring an architect in the next few months. The architect will assist us in designing our expanded facility. So stay tuned for the plans and designs.

Sometimes people ask me why the library needs to expand. That’s a good question so I have done my best to outline some of the reasons an expansion is not only important but vital to our community’s library.

  • The library expanded last in 1983. That building project was sized to take the library twenty years into the future. Those twenty years have passed and the library became full right on schedule.
  • In 1983 the library did not own any computers, videos, DVDs, or compact discs. All of these are now essential library resources and, over the years, have been squeezed into our building which was never designed to house these items, which in turn takes away space for traditional library resources.
  • The library’s materials collection is at capacity for the building size. The shelves are full. In other words, every time we add an item, one has to be discarded.   
  • For a community of our size, the state’s guidelines show that our collection (based on our community service area population) should be approximately 91,777 to be considered excellent. Our collection is at its maximum size at approximately 84,000 and will never get much bigger than this, even though our service population continues to grow.
  • The floor loading limit has been reached in the 1983 expansion portion of the building. Engineers have advised us not to put any more load on the floor.
  • Seating is limited in quantity and variety. We have about half as many seats as we should according to the state guidelines for our community service population.
  • Public computing resources are limited by space and infrastructure.
  • Power and data distribution infrastructure is badly in need of updating.
  • Some aisles and areas do not meet the accessibility requirement in the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Library meeting spaces and their capacities are inadequate to meet the demand by civic organizations, community groups, and the library itself.  Additionally, there is no after-hours availability.
  • Crowded work spaces limit the staff’s ability to work efficiently despite their best efforts. There is not an ADA-accessible pathway anywhere within the general staff workroom.
  • The number of restroom fixtures is entirely inadequate for a building with the occupancy the library regularly experiences.
  • There are no publicly accessible quiet study areas in the library.
  • Collections have been split when they shouldn’t be or moved to completely different locations making them very difficult to find for a majority of patrons.
  • There is only a very small space allocated for young adults in our library, yet a substantial young adult collection exits and the demand for young adult space has been demonstrated.
  • There is almost no space in the library for public information displays.
  • There is very little space in the library for displays related to library programs.
  • Materials are shelved out of reach of many patrons on very high shelves.
  • The grade of the building on the lot makes physical access to the library very difficult for people with mobility challenges and senior citizens.

 Stay tuned as we open this exciting new chapter…


25 years of change

May 16, 2008

Some have asked, “Wasn’t it just recently that the library expanded?”

As a matter of fact it was 25 years ago. I actually remember it clearly. I’m sure others remember it well too. Whether it was watching the front entrance move from one end of the building to the other or seeing the false ceilings come down, it left quite an impression on many of us who were here 25 years ago. (Of course, having to work amid the mess of construction does tend to implant the image in your brain!)

In some ways 1983 does seem like yesterday. (Unless you weren’t born yet, in which case you’ll just have to take a leap of faith on this one.)

But in the world of libraries, the changes that have transpired in the last 25 years have been monumental.

  • In 1983 we didn’t own a video. Videos had just been invented and the war between Beta max and VHS was still on the horizon.   
  • In 1983 we owned just a few books on tape but the earliest versions were the ultimate abridgment of a book, consisting of only one tape, no matter the length of the book. The production was also poor quality by today’s standards. Now we own more than 3,400 audio books in both the tape and the CD format. It is one of our most heavily used collections.
  • In 1983 we didn’t own a single computer. Microsoft Windows was invented two years later, in 1985. Now we own 36 computers, each one taking up its very own space and putting a load on the floor that was never designed for the weight it now carries.
  • In 1983 we owned 50,876 items. Today we own 81,000 items. The library has had a “no growth” practice for adding items since about the year 2000. That’s library lingo for having no more room to add new materials unless something else is moved off the shelf.
  • In 1983 our circulation was 103,911. Last year our circulation was almost 186,000. This translates to an increase of 79% in items being checked out by the community. Remember, the items leaving the building are eventually returned. So actually, to analyze true collection usage, that number needs to be doubled.
  • In 1983 the library reported 35,047 visits by people. Last year we had 181,112 visits. The number of library visits is now more reflective of usage than any other single number. The way people use libraries has changed greatly since the advent of the Internet. These days many people come in to use library resources without ever checking out anything. A 417% increase in the number of people who enter our building is a clear indication of how our community values and utilizes our library.

It would be safe to say the world has changed since 1983. When the architects were planning the building, they sized it to last twenty years. Those twenty years have come and gone and never could they have envisioned the kinds of changes we’ve seen in those years.

We have done our best to adapt to the changes in those years but have come to the place where we realize that we have not only reached our building capacity, but we have also stretched it beyond its original intentions.

While the pace of change has been rapid over these last 25 years (and has felt relentless at times), it has prepared us well for the changes yet to come. More about that in future entries.

(Note this article is adapted and updated from a column that originally appeared in the Daily Jefferson County Union newspaper)

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