The MBLC Welcomes Andrea Bunker!

Andrea Bunker started at the MBLC on December 6 as our new Library Building Specialist. She will be working closely with Lauren Stara to administer the very successful Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program.

Andrea comes to us from Woburn Public Library, where she was Director since 2016. She’s been spending most of her time on the WPL’s addition and renovation, which is slated to reopen in February. Her experience will be especially helpful to libraries planning renovations to historic buildings – the Woburn Public Library is a National Historic Landmark and was the first library designed by HH Richardson, who became well known for public libraries. Prior to Woburn, she participated in a space planning project for the Newburyport Public Library where she served first as the Teen Librarian and then as Senior Librarian for Reference.

She holds an MLIS from the University of Rhode Island and a BA in English and Secondary Education from Northeastern University.

Andrea “looks forward to working with libraries throughout the Commonwealth in creating spaces that foster lifelong learning, assist residents in pursuing their goals, and strengthen connections within communities.”

Please join us in welcoming Andrea to this crucial role!

A Must Read for Library Construction

By MBLC Library Building Specialist Lauren Stara

Every once in a while, a book comes along that is packed with so much good information that you want to share it with everyone. In this case, that means everyone who is planning a library construction project.

The Practical Handbook of Library Architecture: Creating Building Spaces that Work by Fred Schlipf and John A Moorman (ALA, 2018) is the book.

To be honest, it’s a little intimidating at nearly 1,000 pages, but don’t let that stop you. The authors are librarians who have decades of experience with library design and construction from the librarian’s point of view, and they’ve put it all down in black and white with humor and style. Chapter Two is entitled “More than Two Hundred Snappy Rules for Good and Evil in Library Architecture” – need I say more?

Topics run the gamut from the 10,000 foot view (overviews of the design and construction processes) to the granular (the wording for the plaque that goes in the lobby), and everything in between. There’s even a chapter called “Evaluating Library Buildings by Walking Around” that’s great for assessing an existing facility. You can see from the photo that I started flagging important passages, but after a few chapters I had to stop because I was running out of flags.

This is a book that former MBLC Construction Specialist Patience Jackson could have written, for those of you who know her. It’s the book I wish I had written, with a few minor exceptions – the information is unrelentingly practical, and I admit that my training as an architect rears its head at times. One example: the section on page 103 where the authors rail against what they call “designer staircases.” I do love a dramatic stairway.

You can download the Table of Contents and the “Two Hundred Snappy Rules” in PDF for free from the ALA Editions website. This is not an inexpensive book, but we are in the process of ordering two more copies to circulate for our professional collection. Contact Lauren Stara if you have any questions.

Public Libraries in Massachusetts: An Evolving Ecosystem

After over a year of hard work, we have completed our “Evolving Ecosystem” report with Watertown based design and planning firm Sasaki and help from Massachusetts library patrons and staff who filled out our statewide survey last summer.

The study was initiated and funded by the construction program, so that was the focus. We went in with a few goals:

  1. To come up with a set of best practices for library design – a set of guidelines to help us understand the requirements of contemporary library buildings
  2. To take the first steps in formulating a way for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program to help improve library facilities in the state’s very small libraries
  3. To understand where and how some libraries serve as de-facto resource locations for surrounding communities, and how that might affect building size requirements

After the Your Voice Your Library surveys last summer and a deep dive into the ARIS dataset, Sasaki produced a written report and an interactive website that’s helping us understand how important the cooperative system we have in Massachusetts is, and start to look as how this information might help shape the ecosystem in the future. It’s also become clear that this report is valuable to everyone in the MBLC and in libraries across the state – not just the construction program.

This is only the beginning of the process, though. We are now in the process of gathering responses and feedback from the library community, to help us determine what we do with this data, and we want to hear from you! As of this writing, there are still two more community meetings, scheduled on July 10 in Tewksbury and July 17 in Plymouth. We are also looking for volunteers for a statewide Ecosystem committee to guide us in where we go from here.

Take a look at the website at https://mblc.state.ma.us/ecosystem  and use the contact form there for your input, or you can email us at ecosystem@mblc.state.ma.us. We want your thoughts! You can learn more about the study here.

A Guide to Town Meetings

This is a guest post from Patrick Borezo, Director of the Goodwin Memorial Library in Hadley

In November of 2017 voters in Hadley, Massachusetts let their voices be heard at the ballot box.  Hadley had made the historic decision to accept nearly four million dollars from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and to allocate the balance of funds needed to construct a new library. The Goodwin Memorial Library, constructed in 1902, would be replaced with a single story, fully accessible facility with greatly improved parking, collection capacity, and meeting space.

Hadley is a community of roughly 5,250 people with a town meeting form of government. Because town meetings are attended by a minority of residents the committee felt that it needed to mobilize between 300 and 500 supporters to deliver the needed two-thirds majority. This would be especially important in case of an organized opposition. The Committee’s Get Out the Vote strategy for both the special town meeting and ballot vote emphasized one-to-one communication between neighbors, particularly those who were likely to support the library. The use of attendance lists from previous Town Meetings was crucial in this process as it identified those who were already likely to attend based on previous behavior. GOTV volunteers attended brief strategy meetings and were each asked to contact ten to twenty residents who were seen as likely to support the library project. Volunteers asked each person contacted whether they would likely attend the special town meeting on the specified date and if the answer was affirmative they were also asked how many others from their household were likely to attend.  This effort worked as a running head count, but also as a way to gently remind likely supporters of the town meeting and its relevance to the library project if they were not already aware.

Additional efforts included a number of supportive letters to the editor of the local newspaper as well as several press releases that resulted in media coverage of the special town meeting. A small run of lawn signs (underwritten by the Friends of the Library) was distributed to the homes of supporters in the week leading up to special town meeting.

The special Town Meeting held on August 29th was attended by nearly 500 residents putting the hall at full capacity.  Some twenty to thirty people participated from the hallway which was used for overflow from the main room.  Roughly a dozen members of the public spoke articulately and passionately in support of the article from the floor. The final vote was 449 in favor with 28 opposed. The nearly unanimous sea of hands held up to vote “yes” was a powerful affirmation of the importance of the library and the services that it provides to this community.

The successful result at Special Town Meeting sent the borrowing question to a town-wide ballot on November 14, 2017.  The strategy for the vote was similar to the lead-up to Town Meeting, with the majority of effort going to reactivating those in attendance in August. Additionally, a town-wide mailing was undertaken and paid for by the Friends of the Library.  These postcards were mailed to every active postal address in town, rather than targeting supporters only. As in August, lawn signs were created with the slogan “Our Community, Our Library”.

Again, the operative assumption was that participation in the ballot vote would represent a minority of Hadley’s total population. To succeed at the ballot a simple majority is needed rather than two-thirds majority.  Ultimately 1,157 votes were cast.  683 in favor and 470 opposed (with four left blank).

Looking back over a process that began in earnest in the Spring of 2014 when Hadley accepted the MBLC’s Planning & Design Grant I have taken several lessons from our journey so far.  Most of these may seem like common sense, but I think they are all worth repeating.

  • Know your community, but don’t buy into all of its conventional wisdom.

We have all heard from community members who, claiming to know it very well, believe that it can never change.  This is especially true when there are memorable instances from the past where a divisive issue led to a bitter defeat for an important project.  Every campaign happens in its own context.  In being offered something worth the effort and risk each community has the opportunity to follow a new direction and write a new chapter. And who knows, perhaps the community that we thought we knew so well has changed a bit more than we anticipated.

  • Say, “Yes” as often as it is possible and practical to do so.

The early stages of planning are a great time to paint with a broad brush and think big.  An important part of building consensus is to hear from the community about what they think should be included in such a transformative project.  I was often surprised by how important the functional aspects of the proposed library were to residents who engaged with the planning process.  Would we have a green building? Can the Children’s Room be situated so as to contain noise and maximize safety? What about accessing the meeting rooms after hours? These kinds of questions arose far more than those relating to the appearance of the building, for instance. People could see the possibilities in the new library and asked us to consider many suggestions, some more practical than others.  As often as we could we said “Yes” in terms of at least considering any idea brought to us. Some of these ideas might not make it into the final plan, but all ideas were considered important enough to merit consideration. And if that “Yes” must ultimately become a “No” there would be a solid rationale to back up the decision.

  • Build consensus through transparency.

It is amazing what you can learn about yourself or the things you are working on “through the grapevine”. Scuttlebutt is a natural and unavoidable aspect of anything political.  Decisions made out in the open will be questioned rigorously, fairly or unfairly, but when the perception is that important decision-making is being made behind closed doors then trouble is sure to follow.  A savvy opponent will use any procedural mistakes made by a committee to undermine public confidence and slow down the process.  Always follow open meeting law and advertise meetings as widely as possible. Provide information as quickly and completely as possible, even when it is to someone working against your project, as is your obligation.  At the end of the day it’s the integrity of the process that matters and those in the community who are objectively on the fence may well be swayed by that integrity to help write a new chapter.

Be Legal and in the Money: Ballot Question and Capital Campaign Dos and Don’ts

By Library Building Consultant Rosemary Waltos and Library Building Specialist Lauren Stara

Join us and our two guest speakers on September 25, from 10:30 – 2:30 at the newly renovated Cary Memorial Library in Lexington to learn about the dos and don’ts of winning ballot questions and running capital campaign fundraising from the experts. Jason Tait from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) will answer those sticky questions about what you legally can and cannot do in your get-out-the-vote town meeting and ballot question campaign. Adam Dawkins, Director of Stewardship, Trinity Church, Boston and former advisor to the Stoughton Public Library Capital Campaign will give tips on the ins-and-outs of running a successful one-time-only capital campaign.

Feel free to attend one or both sessions and don’t miss seeing the newly renovated Cary Memorial Library. Register at http://mblc.libcal.com/event/3595380 by Friday, September 22.

All are welcome, with Library directors and members of their trustees and building committees in the 2016-17 construction grant round especially encouraged to attend. Here’s how the day will stack up.

10:30 a.m.           Ballot Question Do’s and Don’ts: Using Public Resource and Political Action On/Off the Job. Jason Tait, Director of Communications and Public Education, Massachusetts’ OCPF

Noon – 1 p.m.   *Break

1:00 p.m.             Capital Campaigns: What’s Different about Them. Adam Dawkins, Director of Stewardship, Trinity Church, Boston and former advisor to the Stoughton Public Library Capital Campaign

2 p.m.                   Wrap-Up

*Here is your chance to see one of the most innovative public libraries in the state and an example of a flexible floorplan at work. Lexington’s Cary Memorial Library was expanded and renovated 2004. Then eleven years later, under the leadership Library Director Koren Stembridge, the library flexed it floorplan to meet the evolving needs and demands of its community by reconfiguring and upgrading of a goodly portion of its space. Today, a transformed Cary Memorial Library offers a one desk model for convenient circulation and information/reference service, an Idea Wall for interactive exhibits, four new study rooms for a total of seven, and the Cary Commons, a casual gathering space that doubles as a performance hall. Best of all, the Library features a vibrant new teen space with collaborative spaces, a technology area, generous casual seating, and more room for collections. It is worth the ride to the outskirts of Boston to see this library.

Your Voice, Your Library!

By Library Building Consultant Rosemary Waltos

Massachusetts’ web of automated networks, robust delivery service, and state aid funds to public libraries make it easy and convenient for people to use not only their own city/town library but to freely use any public library in the state. And they do!

The perennial question in library circles is why? Why do some folks in Massachusetts cross city/town borders for their library fix? As is true with many questions, the answers don’t come easy or fast. To help figure it out, the MBLC is launching a study of cooperative borrowing and use patterns of Massachusetts public libraries, especially in-person visits by people that live in other cities and towns.

In addition to gathering statistical information from our networks and ARIS reports, between July and September we are seeking input from library users and library staff members through our Your Voice, Your Library survey.

For some people, surveys are at worse The Plague and at best a nuisance, so we are sweetening the deal for even the most reluctant survey taker. During the month of August, patrons completing the Your Voice, Your Library survey get a chance to enter to win one of three Apple iPad Pros. Not bad, right?

As the patron survey closes, we launch a separate survey of library staff in September. As an incentive to complete it, staff members get a chance to win a “seat on the bus” on our exclusive Your Voice, Your Library tour. We will take a small group of library staffers to as many new library buildings that we can cram into one day (dates and libraries TBD). There will be two different tours offered on two different days for up to ten people on each tour. We’ll talk about what’s great about the designs, and what the librarians would do differently next time, and lunch will be provided.

Of course, we can’t do this without your help. We simply ask that you to put the Your Voice, Your Library survey button on your home page and encourage library patrons and staff members to take the survey. It takes about five minutes to complete. We will be sending information and the survey to you in advance through van delivery and on the PubDir and AllRegions listservs.

The Your Voice, Your Library survey is open to the public until September 8.  For more information about the survey or how you can be involved in this important effort, contact MBLC’s Library Building Specialists at 1-800-952-7403

Lauren Stara, x245, lauren.stara@state.ma.us

Rosemary Waltos, x246, rosemary.waltos@state.ma.us

And THANKS!

2016-17 Construction Grant Round-Up

By Library Building Consultant Rosemary Waltos

Congratulations to all the applicants in the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) 2016-17 Construction Grant Round. On July 13, the MBLC approved a total of $66,905,603 for provisional construction grant awards to nine libraries in the grant round. At the same time a new construction waiting list was established of libraries slated to receive provisional construction grant awards as funds become available through the program’s annual capital budget. For a list of libraries approved for provisional awards and placement on the waiting list, visit our website via the link at the end of this post.

It often takes years, or sometimes decades, to plan, design, fund and construct a new library building or complete an addition/renovation on an existing one. We know from experience that it is never too early to start the process.

If you are in a library that wants to explore the possibility of initiating a state-funded major capital improvement project, we are here to help. MBLC’s Library Building Specialists are happy to meet with you to see your library building, and talk about your current and future space needs and how MPLCP may be able to help.  To schedule a meeting contact:

  • Lauren Stara, 1-800-952-7403 x245

lauren.stara@state.ma.us

  • Rosemary Waltos, 1-800-952-7403 x246

rosemary.waltos@state.ma.us

For more information about the program, please visit the MBLC’s website: http://mblc.state.ma.us/programs-and-support/construction.

Design Thinking Across the Nation

By Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist at the MBLC

For the last few weeks I have been spending part of my time with OCLC and WebJunction, helping with a IMLS-funded course. Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces is a program that is supporting 15 small and rural public libraries from across the country as they reimagine and reconfigure their libraries into smart spaces. Most are looking at creating “active learning” spaces from underused or newly reclaimed space (from weeding collections, for example) in their existing libraries.

My particular role has been as a champion of Design Thinking – I was brought on board to help with the Ideation and Prototyping modules. These concepts are two of the components outlined in the Design Thinking for Libraries toolkit by IDEO. It’s an approach I’ve been teaching and using in my work for a couple of years.

The course is completely online, so talking about physical space and especially building prototypes was a bit of a challenge! However, with lots of help from the amazing Betha Gutsche and Brianna Hoffman of OCLC and some pretty amazing tech tools, we made it work. We even had real-time sessions for brainstorming ideas and creating personas.

One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to share my passion about library design and new ways of thinking and working. It’s especially fun to expand the reach of the agency beyond the borders of Massachusetts and share these ideas with a larger audience. None of this would have been possible even ten years ago. Online collaboration tools are way beyond what they were, and they make it fun.

If you want to know more, take a look at this LibGuide that I wrote for the participating libraries:

A Little History Lesson

By Lauren Stara, MBLC Library Building Specialist

The Library: a World History came out a few years ago and I did a blog post to the short-lived MBLC Construction Blog in January of 2014. I wanted to share it here because it was such a great read.

The book was written by James W.P. Campbell, with photographs by Will Pryce. I saw the review and it sounded interesting, but to be honest I thought I’d ooh and aah over the photos and put it on the shelf.

Au contraire. I started reading the introduction and I realized that this was not just a doorstop with pretty pictures. I’m about half-way through and I have learned about form and design in the library building type from ancient Sumer to the late nineteenth century. I’ve gleaned some great cocktail party conversation starters. For example, did you know that most of the knowledge we have about the earliest libraries is because of fire? Clay tablets, usually just baked in the sun, were “fired” when their building burned. These hardened tablets are the ones that have survived, in contrast to the total destruction of papyrus, vellum and paper in fires. Later libraries were entirely lit by daylight until the advent of electricity, since the potential destruction by lamps or torches was so great.

As the format and production of books evolved, so did the spaces and shelving styles that house them: from lecterns to alcoves to perimeter shelving; from chained books to grillwork cabinets to open shelves. We think we have it bad now, with collections growing out of the available space – imagine the poor librarians right after the printing press was invented! Collections, literacy rates and the services required grew exponentially.

The 21st century is the first time since Gutenberg that the shape of libraries has been determined by something other than printed books. People are using public libraries in unprecedented numbers. They want access to collections, sure, but they also want internet via library stations and wi-fi, programs and activities, and just a place to hang out. Libraries have become the de facto community center in many places, and people take up more space than books do.

We’re in a period of great flux now, and it’s harder than ever to answer the question “what will libraries be like in 20 years?” Over the last several decades, librarians have proven to be masters of resilience and flexibility; our buildings must reflect that flexibility. Mobile technology, furniture and shelving with a welcoming atmosphere and a philosophy of service is the model that seems to be working. We have to be ready for anything.

Postscript: this fabulous quote from the book shows that some things never change:

“The results of Beaux-Arts planning were all too often libraries in which librarians worked in increasingly impractical layouts, designed to look good on plan rather than function well in reality. This was the tyranny of the symmetrical plan.” –p. 225

We have this book in the MBLC professional collection, available through NOBLE or the Commonwealth Catalog.

 

Construction Resources Available through the MBLC

One of the great little-known resources for librarians in the commonwealth is the MBLC’s professional collection. We have hundreds of books on just about every conceivable library-related topic. All these items are available via the NOBLE network.

Because of our current construction grant round, we have put together a resource guide with a list of some of the newest books in our collection in the area of library design, construction and maintenance. Each item on the list links directly to the record in NOBLE, to make requesting easy.