Sunday, March 20, 2022

If I Had to Build My Own Library

So let's say I win a mega lotto, hundreds of millions of dollars all in one go, and I could do anything and everything with it. How evil would I get with it? 

Well, I *would* set aside a set amount of it - maybe $15 million - to myself, I could live comfortably on that and never work again. I would put a certain amount into long-term investments to make sure I never go bankrupt down the line. That would still leave millions upon millions at disposal.

I wouldn't buy yachts - although there may be a resale market right now with all the Russian oligarchs losing theirs - and I wouldn't go crazy buying mega mansions with 20 bedrooms and 5-car garages, that's just all waste.

I'd put most of that money into foundations and charities, donating out to those issues - refugees, immigrants, homeless relocation to good homes, animal rescues, child care, women's health - I would deem most essential.

I'd also as a librarian - who's been in love with libraries and books since I was a child - put money towards building a good-sized public library serving a needy community.

Which intrigues the amateur architect / interior designer in me. What would my dream public library look like?

First off: It must serve the community. Every feature that makes a library what it is - bookshelf space, reading space, computer lab, teen reading space, children's story time and crafts room, adult makerspace craft room - also has to share public meeting room space and outdoors activity space.

It'll depend on where the library goes, the size of the community. More people = more demands on library services = bigger floorspace. I currently work in Bartow, that's around 20,000 people. I grew up in Palm Harbor, that's currently 60,000 people. A new library in Palm Harbor would HAVE to be bigger than Bartow's, obviously.

Should it be single-story or multi-floors? If I wanted to show off, I'd make it at least a three-story building with the public meeting rooms and special services offices - like a café, art gallery, and Friends of the Library Book Store - on the first floor, YA and adult services/computer lab on the second floor, library admin and children's services on the third. But a building like that will require elevators - side note, libraries ought to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act - and near-constant maintenance of them. That's not even considering the huge amount of HVAC / central air and heat you'll need for all those floors. Oft times, a single-story public library would be best. Only the major metro and county library systems - Hi, Broward Main! - should think about multi-floor libraries.

Collection Management of any library requires a basic core collection of reading materials, DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks for checkout. Some distributors will offer package deals on those, but they ought to get supplemented with local authors and regional interests materials. I'd actually opened a new regional library in Broward County that went with ordering a core collection package, and tried to merge it with the existing collection of the books from the local library the new building was replacing. Thing was, they failed to plan shelf space to merge both collections, so rule of thumb if you're going with a start-off collection it'd best be for a brand-new library.

And from that experience I learned something else: We need as much shelf space as possible. You can't make every inch of a library a shelf area, by the by. You need reading chair areas and study table areas and enough floor space for people to walk here and there. But you can't skimp on maintaining a good collection of new fiction reads and existing subject titles on things like cookbooks and histories. You can't aggressively weed out older titles unless you have to, so you need a lot of shelves to manage it all.

My new library would open with what's called "Compact Shelving" although I've nicknamed it "Accordion Shelving" because it collapses and opens like an accordion. It allows you to deploy extra shelves in a limited floor space, by having just one shelf range open for shelf browsing at a time. You'll see those compact shelves a lot in universities, but public libraries ought to use them too. If we start off with a core collection that takes up only two-thirds of the compact shelves, the library should have a few years building up from that start to fill out enough of those shelves while a regular management process of weeding out older or damaged or unread books keeps it from getting overwhelmed.

The layout / floorplan shouldn't deviate from standard layouts. The meeting rooms have to be separate from the rest of the library as those rooms may be in use for the community when the library itself is closed. So there's often a lobby entrance that merges the meeting space to the library space. Also, the bathrooms have to be in the foyer in order to serve both parts.

The Circulation/Checkout desk has to be at the front entrance, both to handle incoming returns from patrons but to also control what gets checked out and making sure nobody sneaks off with that copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in their back pocket, you naughty book thief.

There used to be a Reference Desk for patrons who came in with questions and research needs, but the advent of online searching - damn you, Google - reduced a lot of demand for that. Instead most libraries have converted it to an Adult Services desk that also oversees the public computers for tech assistance. Some libraries share an all-in-one service desk that reaches from the Checkout workstations to the Adult Services workstation, mostly so that staff can support each other during busy hours.

A joint public desk usually means a shared staff work area, which helps reduce the need for adding more floor space for separate off-desk workstations. It would also be where the cataloging and book processing takes place, along with shipment deliveries and supplies storage.

Oooh, storage. Very important. CLOSET SPACE IS A MUST. Double supply closet floor space whenever possible. Just saying.

It would help to design the floor space so that the children's librarian workstation is with the rest of the staff's. I've been in some places even in single-story buildings where they put the children's librarian in a remote office. It doesn't help with interoffice communication and team-sharing. The children's story time room, THAT can be separate from the main library floor space, but make it easy access for the librarians to reach.

A library director's office should be accessible to both the staff's work area and the public floor. Both as a management principle as well as a public service necessity. The director is going to handle a lot of patron issues, visiting salespersons, civic leaders stopping by, and a safe place to make the occasional 911 call regarding an atypical patron.

Your building custodian is going to need both a workstation and a supply closet, most likely in the lobby area to handle meeting-room-only emergencies.

Having a dedicated Teen/YA Area is good for promoting libraries to the group in most need of literacy and after-school activities. It has to be positioned close enough for the Adult Services librarian to handle any emergencies, but isolated enough so teens can hang out without fear of getting chaperoned every minute of their stay. In this day and age, comfy reading chairs next to floor outlets to recharge smartphones is a good floorplan.

Oh, and you'll need a good-sized parking lot. With sunset-sensitive parking lot light timers.

And an outdoors Book Drop, preferably built into the library with a roof over it for bad weather, with a narrow enough slot that vandals won't shove drinks or trash through it, and with a drive-thru lane so people won't have to get out of their cars if they're in a hurry.

And it won't hurt to build the library on a pre-existing bus route so that the community has transit access to your public library.

Also bike racks. Maybe with built-in locks that patrons can borrow to secure their bikes without fear.

It wouldn't hurt to be near a pizza parlor either, especially with a lunch buffet for staff to walk to from time to time.

You know what, if I'm a multimillionaire I'll BUILD that pizza buffet within walking distance of the library, how about that, huh?! YOU LIKING THIS?! I'M LOVING THIS!


You want me to DRAW this dream library?!


Gimme a minute, I need to find my D&D graph paper...

Thursday, March 17, 2022

It's Quiet Man Time! What Does Erin Go Bragh Mean Anywho...?

Well according to Merriam-Webster, Erin Go Bragh (or Braugh) translates from the Gaelic as Ireland Until Doomsday: In short, Ireland Forever


Now go wear your green, drive all the snakes out of Ireland your plane, and watch the Quiet Man on DVD or Turner Classics or something!

Friday, March 11, 2022