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City wants your feedback: What makes a 21st century library?

Studio GC Library Studio Director Richard McCarthy gave a half hour presentation on what a 21st century library can offer a community before addressing questions from the crowd during the first New Richmond new library project community meeting on Tuesday, June 18. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Friday Memorial Library interim director Jennifer Rickard (at the podium) addresses a crowd of nearly 60 people at the first new library building project meeting on Tuesday, June 20. The first meeting included a presentation by the architectural firm, StudioGC, and concluded with the city asking citizens to fill out a survey to let them know what they want to see in a new library. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

When the Friday Memorial Library in New Richmond opened, libraries were mainly used as a place to learn, read and checkout books. However, over the last 60 years, libraries have become much more than that and they continue to evolve at a rapid pace.

“I think that it is important for a community to understand that a revitalized library is more complicated and isn’t going to just be a bigger version of what it is now. There are a lot of new things that will go into a new library,” said Studio GC Library Studio Director Richard McCarthy. “ So you really need to look at the existing building and realize that there will be change.”

McCarthy was the lead presenter at the first of three meetings — held on Tuesday, June 20 — in which the city of New Richmond gave the community a chance to learn about what a library can be and give their input on what they would like to see in a new library through the completion of a survey. The meeting was attended by nearly 60 people. StudioGC Architecture + Interiors, out of Chicago, will design the library for the city.

“In addition to being a way to get information for learning, in a social sense, a library’s function is to be the community’s front porch. It offers a place where anybody in the community can come together, experience things and see their neighbors. That is one of the things we think about when we are designing a library,” said McCarthy.

According to McCarthy, there are four qualities that all 21st century library have, including: learning, creation, technology and social connection.

“Somewhere in these qualities is a balance point, the right balance point, for New Richmond. As we start this process, we are trying to find that right balance. A library used to be a place that holds lots of books, but now it has expanded to a place that offers a whole range of experiences in addition to the books everyone grew up with,” McCarthy said.

During his presentation, McCarthy shared several ideas of what a new library can offer a community including:

  • More seating
  • Drive-up facilities
  • Creativity lab
  • Cultural and entertainment venue
  • Children’s space
  • Outdoor activity space
  • Study and small group rooms
  • Large group meeting rooms
  • Teen and tween spaces
  • Parking
  • Sensory-friendly design
  • Flexible space
  • Social spaces
  • Sustainable design

The single most requested space the firm gets when designing a new library is designated study and small group spaces, McCarthy said.

“Many libraries, when asked about the use of their meeting rooms, say that they are always in use. I know that Jennifer Rickard gets requests on a daily basis for spaces like this in a library and she has to tell them that she is sorry because there are no spaces like that at the library,” McCarthy said.

Another point McCarthy made is more than likely, the library the city will be able to build will be smaller than people want.

“Given that, we will want to look at the space we have and make it the most flexible space that we possibly can,” McCarthy said. “There are lots of ways to do that. A lot of the design decisions here will include us asking ourselves what more can this be. That way, we can make sure we are getting the ultimate, best use out of everything.”

The survey provided by the city asks citizens to share their opinions on what is important to them on a scale of 1 to 10. Those interested in filling out a survey to share their thoughts on what the new library building should be and what you want to see in a new library, go to newrichmondlibrary.org/librarybuildingproject. Citizens can also contact library board members with their thoughts and questions.

According to interim library director Jennifer Rickard, Tuesday night’s presentation was recorded and will be available on the library’s website in the near future.

Citizen comments

Following McCarthy’s presentation, several citizens asked him questions regarding a wide variety of topics, including how libraries deal with tornado safety and what staffing will need to be like in order to operate new technologies, such as 3D printers.

One resident said people should be able to vote on a referendum to support the library since it is a lot of money and feel citizens should have a more direct say in the process. The same individual also suggested that the city could use some of the unused space at the high school, or possibly add on to the high school, rather than trying to build a whole new building.

“Usually that kind of a library doesn’t work because the two entities have different funding streams and it is more complicated than just adding the two buildings together,” McCarthy said.

According to City Administrator Mike Darrow, the city is asking citizens to fill out the survey over the next 30 days to help inform the city on what its citizens want to see in a new library.

“The next meeting will deal with dialing down to one of the two sites, between the current location and the Arch Street space,” said Darrow.

The second community meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 24, time to be determined, and will give the community a chance to share their feelings on where the library should be located. A third meeting will be held towards the end of August and will hopefully include a recommendation from the city on which site will be the new location of the library.

“Right now, we are an open book. We want to hear your feedback whether it is in regards to the location of the library, what the library should have or how big the library should be. Now is the time to get that feedback,” said Mayor Fred Horne. “Now is the time to ask us questions so the council can discuss if we should have a referendum for this project. We just want to hear from you guys and want to listen to what the public wants. We actually do listen.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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