For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
October 22, 1997 - Oakes Mill Construction
Recently I attended a Colorado Library Association conference, and in particular a session on library construction projects.
Such projects fall into three basic types. The first is a new library in a new location. The second (and probably the more common) is the library remodel. The third is the construction of a new library on the same site as the old one.
Logistically, they all have their own wrinkles. A new building in a new location is simplest because you can operate one library until the other is ready. Then there's one move, and you reopen. This was the model we used for our Parker Library, and will use for our permanent Highlands Ranch Library.
A library remodel is a little trickier. Sometimes you have to move the collection in stages, just ahead of the work, like a high society ball being stalked by the Marx Brothers. This is the most confusing for patrons because nothing is where it was last week. On the other hand, patrons can also see a little more of the work in progress. This was the approach we used for past Philip S. Miller Library changes, and will probably use again.
The third approach is what we have been trying to do for our Oakes Mill Library: tear down a small building with a history of maintenance and access problems, and put up a new, greatly expanded one, with everything on one level.
In an effort to minimize the disruption in service at Oakes Mill, we ordered a "temporary building," which we planned to keep on site while the big building was being constructed. Again speaking logistically, this was most complex. We had to identify a subset of the library's collection to be moved to the temporary building, pack up the rest of the collection for storage, then reintegrate the two collections in the new building.
We were ready.
Meanwhile, our architects, Humphries Poli, designed a wonderful, even thrilling library. We bid it out, and it came within 1% of our estimates. The work would be done by a local contractor, Ash and White, with whom we had worked before on our Parker Library.
Alas. We learned that we had a problem. The temporary building wasn't delivered by the date we'd specified (September 12). After many phone calls and escalating tensions, we finally got a new projected delivery date: the middle of December.
The difficulty was that by pushing the project back that far, we endangered not only our budget but our timetable. For fairly obvious reasons, it's better to work on concrete foundations in warmer weather.
So we've made a tough call. The Oakes Mill Library will operate until Saturday, October 25. Then we're shutting it down for a week to give people the opportunity to return their books (through the book drop), while staff gets ready for the move. During this week (Sunday, October 26 through Saturday, November 1), we will not charge any fines for overdue materials at any library location. (The point is to get as many of the Oakes Mill materials back as we can.)
On November 3 and 4, we will move the entire collection into storage. On November 5, the demolition of the old library will commence.
Meanwhile, we are seeking to cancel our contract for the temporary building, thus eliminating high temporary utility costs, and making it easier for us to expand the Oakes Mill parking lot.
During this next week, we will hand out lists of other Douglas Public Library District locations, as well as those of neighboring libraries. We are also looking at some other alternatives: a "satellite" location where patrons could pick up and drop off materials, or perhaps a rented bookmobile.
So let me summarize. The bad news: the Oakes Mill Library will be closed for the duration of the construction project, which we estimate will be completed in June, 1998. The good news: when it's done, it will be considerably nicer than the original library, or even what we first thought could be done as a remodel. In the meantime, you have a chance to save some money on overdue fines. And again, we are seriously investigating some ways to cut down the patron inconvenience in the meantime.
My sincere apologies. But as I heard several times at the library workshop on construction projects, "Remember Murphy's Law? Murphy was an optimist."