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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Where oh where to put the new Fitchburg library?

From the Capital Times today, a report on how a nearby community is debating the role of, and site for, a proposed new public library.

Site pick for Fitchburg library to follow hearing

By Cliff Miller
Correspondent for The Capital Times
October 12, 2005

A special committee will write the next installment in the saga of Fitchburg's quest for its first library next week, but the panel first will take one more reading of residents' opinions.
The Library Committee will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Senior Center at City Hall, followed immediately by a committee meeting to choose between two proposed library sites, chairperson Jayne Kuehn said.

The sites are a portion of McKee Farms Park near McKee and Fish Hatchery roads and a section of Fitchburg Center Park near the City Hall/Community Center at Fish Hatchery and Lacy roads.

Kuehn said the two sites share one advantage: Both are already owned by the city. Privately owned sites were explored in hopes a developer might provide land for a library as an attraction in a new subdivision, but the search came up empty, she said.

The effort by residents to persuade the city to build a library goes back about three years. City officials created the 13-member committee to formalize the process, but City Council members and Mayor Tom Clauder also said they want the issue put to a referendum before they decide whether to back it.

It will be some time before a referendum is held, even if next week's hearing and committee meeting result in a site choice. "That's just the first hurdle," Kuehn said.

The committee has chosen, in a competitive process, the Milwaukee office of HG&A architects, a national firm with libraries as one of its specialties. The architects and other consultants will determine costs after construction and design details are worked out as dictated by the chosen site.

"Once we get through the basics we have a big sales job ahead of us," she said.

Choosing between the two sites means wading through a thicket of pros and cons on each.

There is currently no bus service to the City Hall site; there is service to the McKee area. Residential population surrounding City Hall is thin; McKee Park is within walking distance of densely populated residential areas including Ridgewood Country Club Apartments a mile or so north.

But Kuehn said the city's growth is moving southeast toward the City Hall complex, and she is confident that bus service will follow. The site contains about 10 acres, meaning ample space for parking in addition to a single story library of about 36,000 square feet. A library would enhance the City Hall site as a community center, she added.

At McKee, potential parking space is limited and the library may have to be built on more than one level.

In either case the library would be designed for expansion but would meet state requirements to serve the city's expected population for 20 years.

The committee has held several listening sessions to learn what residents want in a library and whether they want one at all. For now the Dane County Bookmobile visits the city twice per month.

Any insights from our class so far which can be applied to this debate?

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