Forum Prompts A Blizzard Of Ideas For Library Improvements

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Snow Library

Library consultant Mary Braney led a public forum on Snow Library's strengths, opportunities, and aspirations March 21. ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANS Snow Library has a lot going for it, and it's going to have a lot more going for it if the aspirations expressed at a public forum March 21 are realized.

With consultant Mary Braney encouraging comments, about 20 people shared their ideas about the library's present and future. It was one of several general and targeted forums held as part of a needs assessment; another was scheduled for last night (March 28) at 7 p.m.

Whatever changes are made, there appears to be bedrock on which to build. Asked to list the library's strengths, several people called out “the staff,” some employing verbal exclamation points.

Attendees praised the programs for adults and children, the convenient location of the circulation desk near the door and of the library itself downtown, the variety of databases, the internet connection, the meeting and reading spaces, and the Snowmobile that delivers books to homes.

Asked by Braney about “the kinds of things you see to build on these strengths,” the audience was quiet for a moment before the ideas started coming: “How about a full second floor?” “More natural lighting.” “A little room for coffee and chatter.” “Better internet access.”

“We need more space for a variety of things,” one speaker said. “For instance, we need more meeting spaces for multiple book groups, for staff to meet, for students to study together. More stack space in the basement, where the fiction collection is not adequate.”

Another said flatly, “A new building,” which drew supportive chuckles. “A 21st century building,” someone else added.

Aspirations for what the audience would like to see happen over the next 20 years included a new, environmentally sensitive building at the current site and a larger budget to support more staff, more accessibility, and more hours, including the return of Sunday hours (“A lot of us do miss it,” a woman said. “We go to Brewster now. We're traitors!”).

Other ideas included an increased focus on new technologies and education programs to keep up with those changes, a greater emphasis on the relationship with the community, and “a better working relationship with town hall so they know what we're doing.”

Some wanted a new building wired for video receiving and sending, allowing access to long-distance learning programs as well as presentation of author events taped at the library. One low-tech idea was a drop-off returns box that wouldn't require getting out of the car.

Braney asked what sort of “vibe” the library should have in coming years. “Continue its welcoming ways,” one speaker said. Another wanted a place for “conversation where people would come where two or three could talk as part of the warm and welcoming atmosphere.” To another, that suggested a collaboration with local coffee shops to serve refreshments at the library.

Encouraged by Braney to imagine a library where “money was no object,” speakers suggested a larger building with a basement and two full floors, more elevators, ample parking, and a gas fireplace in the center. How about drone delivery of books? “The reason I said that is you're talking about 20 years from now,” a man said. “Amazon's already doing it.”

The results of various forums will be integrated with responses to a survey being conducted through March 31 (copies are available at the circulation desk and at www.surveymonkey.com/r/9SF6ZTZ) to help chart the future of what one speaker called “the cultural and intellectual center for Orleans.”