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Library committee not just ‘old’ people
This is in response to Sandra Lindstrom’s letter to the editor last week where she indicated that the Library remodel opinions are one-sided and primarily supported by older residents. I am also a member of the City Council Committee regarding the library remodel. The group to which Ms. Lindstrom referred to as a group of old people is the Concerned Citizens Committee (C-3). The C-3 group has invested hundreds of hours in talking with patrons of all ages outside the library for the past several months and obtained over 1,200 signatures of Island residents that are concerned with losing the use of the library for – as KCLS states – up to one year for construction. These have included a broad distribution of Island residents including teenagers, children and other individuals under 50 years of age. Moreover the C-3 group has accumulated substantial data and evidence that invalidate many of the proposed KCLS changes.
Ms. Lindstrom uses the library as a place of business for tutoring so her opinions are primarily based upon her needs to work with her clients. I, on the other hand, am a Friend of the Library and volunteer on a weekly basis with The Friends. The work of the Friends generates funds toward library programming and last year we contributed over $12,000 to our library for various programs ranging from Opera reviews to Children’s story times.
No one that I know has problems with infrastructure upgrades such as updating electrical, heating, plumbing and wireless or smaller table arrangements and as many small study rooms as possible as Ms. Lindstrom implies. Rather, Mercer Island Citizens’ concern is the King County Library System has a blueprint for all their 42-plus libraries that includes using as much glass as possible and molding the building to fit its view because, as they have said, they “know better than Islanders what is best for them”. It is unfortunate that KCLS has never evaluated any of their new buildings or remodels. I suspect that patrons would tell them that glass walls do not work for meeting rooms where movies, etc. are shown. That glass walls are actually a hazard as adults and particularly children who have walked into them. That glass walls cause visual distractions. Granted we need to utilize our meeting rooms as much as possible but this could be accomplished with a large window into the room versus a wall of glass.
Another item of great concern that appears to highlight the fallacy of KCLS thinking is its decision to close the drive up book drop. The drive-up book drop is important for individuals with limited mobility and a convenience to all. KCLS states that it is a problem for staff and more importantly they just don’t put in book drop offs at libraries. The fact that we have had one since the library was designed and built by Mercer Islanders and that it has not caused any problems does not change their opinion – once again it does not fit into their “blueprint” for libraries.
A major item of concern is the KCLS plan for our children’s area. The plan does not allow easy visibility for parents to monitor their children while they tend to other business in the library. Moreover the plan also creates two entries/exits which again concerns parents. They do not want their children wandering out or being led out by others. Finally it places the computers for the little ones by a window and does not allow for parents/guardians to sit and engage with them as they learn.
It is unfortunate that we Mercer Islanders will contribute approximately $5 million dollars this year to a library system that gives us back less than $3 million in services (and may be closer to $2 million) and yet when we ask for what was promised to us in our agreement to join KCLS and specifically in the Capital Bond issue we are told: “KCLS knows best.” I understand that you cannot please everyone when you undertake a project but you surely should engage with the majority of your patrons and work with their concerns. The KCLS vision statement says: “The buildings themselves reflect the community.” We are the community and we want to work with KCLS to achieve it in our building.