OUR OPINION: Library invites public's ideas

By NEMS Daily Journal

Lee County Library officials will have two meetings this week – one at 2:30 p.m. today and a second at 5:30 p.m. Thursday – to discuss and envision the library’s future. Both sessions will take place in the library’s Helen Foster Auditorium.
The sessions called charettes – a word conveying intense consideration and work on ideas and possibilities for specific issues, and not necessarily confined to a single meeting – will consider what’s next for the library, especially its structure, site, physical capacity and design.
The library has occupied its box-like contemporary building on the corner of Jefferson and Madison Street for 40 years. Its use has increased dramatically in recent years as its staff and governing board adapted Internet technology to the information interests of library users and diversified more traditional programs.
Jay Bryan of The McCarty Co., a Tupelo architectural firm, will work with specialized library architect Jeff Scherer of MS&R (Meyer, Scherer amp& Rockcastle, Ltd.) an architectural firm with operations in Minneapolis, and Hyatttsville, Md.
MS&R was founded in 1981 and has completed design work on more than 7 million square feet of library space.
The earlier discussion also included recommendations for more parking space, which has been problematic at the library, whose parking lots are small and where nearby parking is mostly curbside along two-lane residential streets.
The central question is simple but broad: What are the options?
Supporters of the library arguably constitute the most diverse cross-section of the community – all ages, races, neighborhoods, political affiliations, business interests and passionate avocations find help in the library. It is collectively a vital community institution.
All who use the library are stakeholders, and their ideas are encouraged and welcomed at the sessions today and Thursday.
The facts favoring libraries in our future are compelling:
* Libraries had 1.5 billion users in 2010, 34 percent of them children.
* Computer usage at public libraries continues to increase.
* Almost all academic libraries offer e-books, as do more than two-thirds of public libraries. For most libraries, e-books are only still a small percentage of circulated items – but represent the fastest-growing segment.
* Students and faculty are using academic libraries more than ever. During a typical week, academic libraries had more than 31 million searches in electronic databases, answered 469,000 reference questions and made 12,000 group presentations.
* Taxpayers entrusted libraries with their tax dollars by approving 87 percent of operating measures on ballots across the country.
Attend the library charettes and shape the future.