MEETING OFFERS RESIDENTS GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO SAY WHAT THEY WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN A NEW GOLD COAST LIBRARY
April 26, 2015 -- In anticipation of going into contract to purchase the 5.3 acre Halm Industries Property on Glen Head Road, the Gold Coast Public Library Board of Trustees, along with representatives of the architectural firm KG&D, held their first of two round-one community input sessions at the library's annex this past Saturday morning. At the meeting, residents were given the opportunity to offer their thoughts about what they would like to see in a new library. Residents who were unable to attend will have another opportunity on Tuesday, April 28 at 7:30 pm at the main library building. The purchase of the land cannot take place without residents living within the library district first giving their approval in a referendum.
Saturday's hour and a half long session was presided over by architect Russell Davidson, President of KG&D, and attended by about twenty residents, as well as Library Director Michael Morea, and several of the Library Board's trustees.
KG&D's speciality is the design of public buildings such as schools, libraries, and religious institutions. They are the architects for the Roslyn School District and are currently overseeing the renovation of the Great Neck Public Library.
In his introduction, Mr. Davidson explained that he was not presenting design proposals at that time, but rather was there to obtain feedback from the community with regard to what they would like to see in a library, and then during the second round of meetings would return with rough design concepts, at which residents could once again offer feedback.
"Our slogan," he said, "is 'listen, imagine, build.' Today is about listening to you."
Mr. Davidson offered a short history of library design, and how the functions and designs of libraries have changed from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. He emphasized that communities have different needs, wants and values. "There is no one way" he said. "It depends on the individual needs of the community."
Almost immediately, Mr. Davidson fielded questions concerning whether the "cart was being put before the horse," as a few residents said that the costs and the tax implications ought to discussed before any designs for the library were considered. "We need to know the costs and the economics," one resident asserted.
"I think we're in agreement." Mr. Davidson replied. "That is why we are doing this. Based on your input, we are putting together a design concept so that you have a better idea of costs. We are trying to be as transparent as possible."
Library Director Mike Morea added that the process the library and the community are following allows residents to have a better idea of what they could potentially get for the price.
Another resident said that there should be discussions about whether the library needs more space before purchasing a new property. Mr. Morea said that those discussions have been had since 2010, and that at that time, in surveys and in focus groups, residents had expressed the desire for more space.
Asked whether other properties had been looked at, library Trustee Miles Sibell said that since 2010, other properties had been considered and looked at, but that none had risen to the level where it had the "potential" for a library, and therefore the question of whether or not any of those properties should be purchased was never put before voters.
A resident asked whether the building that housed the annex, and for which Mr. Morea said the library pays $60,000 in rent each year, had been considered for purchase. One library trustee said that it had been but that it was not for sale, that the costs to renovate to make it suitable for a library would be greater than what they were currently considering, and that parking was already a serious issue at the library's current location.
Another community member questioned whether the library needed 5.3 acres. Mr. Sibell replied that if voters approved the purchase, the library and the community would have control over the land and could choose to do what it wants with it - whether it is to hold onto all of it, or to sell a portion of it. "If the total real estate exceeds our needs," he said, "the library can dispose of a portion of the land, which would require a community vote." The advantage, he continued, is that the community would have a say over who the purchaser would be.
Mr. Sibell continued that with executive session confidentiality requirements concerning real estate sales and purchases, many of the issues that were being raised could and would be addressed more explicitly by the library board after a contract is signed. "If we have a contract signed on Monday," he said, "then it is something that we will be able to discuss on Tuesday" at the second community input session. The contract would be contingent on community approval in a referendum
Eventually, the discussion returned to design concepts after a resident encouraged others in the audience to stick to the agenda. Mr. Davidson, then added, "let's assume for our purposes today, that the rest of the property is being used exactly the way you want it to be. What is it that you would like to see in your library?"
He then asked attendees to break into two groups each of which met at separate stations where, on poster-sized paper, a different set questions were posed. Led by Mr. Davidson at one station, and colleague and spouse Susan Davidson at the other, residents discussed the questions for about twenty minutes, and then posted stickers on the sheets indicating their preferences (see right). The groups then switched stations to consider the other set of questions.
Questions residents were asked to consider varied greatly, but focused on three key areas - Programs and Services, Building Design, and Interiors.
With regard to building design, among other things, residents were asked to consider whether the building should "stand out," and whether they would support "a proposal that initially costs extra to employ sustainable or green building strategies even though the building will cost less over time?" One resident said that there should be a balance, and that the immediate costs were important, as she and many others might not see the full savings. Another resident said he and others at the meeting were concerned about cost, but added, "we also understand we are doing this for the future; We care about our children and our children's children." When it came time to indicate their preferences by applying sticker dots to the posters, all said that they were "highly likely" or "somewhat likely" to support a green design.
With regard to the building "standing out," it should be "inspirational," said one gentleman, who added, "it should be unique and teach our children something about architecture." Another resident added, such a building would offer "an opportunity to expand the traditional part of the town center to that area of town." Later, another resident said, "It should be comfortable and welcoming. One should be inspired to be creative."
The discussions continued, with many topics addressed from whether it is preferable to have large open spaces or small spaces for quiet study or for students to work collaboratively; or how large a group should a meeting room be able to accomodate; should there be an outdoor reading space; whether the children's section should be contiguous with or completely separate from the adult section; and whether one would likely need to park briefly to drop off or pick up materials or children.
Mr. Davidson said that some new libraries, have a coffee shop, like one would find in a Barnes and Noble, and asked whether that was desireable. Most of the the sticker dots indicated "somewhat desirable."
He said that when he was growing up, the library had the only copy machine in town, and that many people go to libraries to use technology that they cannot afford or do not use frequently enough at home to purchase. Today, he said, those technologies include 3-D printers, laser cutters, and high resolution large format printers. "Would you use them," he asked, if the library had them?" Most indicated with their sticker dots "somewhat likely" or "not likely."
And so it went with each of the questions posed, each community member having the opportunity to make their opinions known, both verbally and with dots.
As the meeting broke up, Mr. Morea explained to Northwordnews, that he hoped the process that the library is following, with the community input sessions held before a referendum, will give residents a much better idea of what sort of library they will be able to get for the cost, and what they will be deciding on when the question goes before voters.
A second round-one community input session will be on Tuesday, April 28th. Another round of input sessions will then be held at which Mr. Davidson said he would present rough design concepts and solicit more community feedback.
While anticipated, the Library and the owner of the Halm property have not yet gone into contract, and as result, no date has been scheduled to put the question of the purchase before voters.
BACK TO WEEKLY
IN ANTICIPATION OF HALMS CONTRACT, GOLD COAST LIBRARY HIRES ARCHITECTURAL FIRM (February 20, 2015)