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Contemplating Your Library's Future

Looking at your library's future requires great imagination, considerable research, coordinated teamwork, and lots of community support. Involving everybody in your community, right from the beginning, is the most essential part of a successful library building program. The opportunities for participating are boundless: community members can be called on to contribute professional and other skills to the project; advocate community library needs to neighbors, friends and colleagues; or work on the project in an official capacity as, for example, a member of the building committee. Library staff can contribute their insights and programmatic needs to the project. Local officials will also be involved, including the town manager or mayor, the local finance director, the town or city building inspector, and the fire marshal. Local media can inform the community about the project and publish visual "progress reports." Everyone can take part, especially in developing community support and raising funds. In many ways, the project will reflect the hopes and aspirations of the community for its future.

Planning is essential. Though it's becoming harder and harder to do, what you're trying to see is what your library should look like twenty years in the future. This does not mean that your initial plans won't change and evolve as you go along. Experts predict that the rapid social and technological changes that we are currently experiencing will continue, and probably accelerate. You can start developing your own library of the future by looking at population projections. How many people will be living in your community in twenty years? What are their age ranges, educational levels, and income levels likely to be? What kinds of businesses and industries will be located in your city or town? How will community members conduct business, do research, learn what they need to know? What kinds of leisure activities and entertainment will they want? What kinds of spaces will be needed in the library for meetings, study groups, tutoring sessions, storyhours and other library programs? What kinds of spaces will be needed for materials, computer workstations, staff work areas? In light of continuing rapid changes in technology and community needs, can the design be flexible enough to change as needs change?

Your library of the future will need a dedicated team to bring it into being. Recruiting the essential building committee members with the necessary skills is the first step. The building committee and the library director will shepherd the project through all of the steps from beginning to end. They will hire two other essential team members - the architect and the library building consultant. Many other people will come (and, in some cases, go) during the process, including state and local officials as well as community members who lend their support and expertise to particular issues or steps in the process. Working together, the building committee, the library director, the architect and the library consultant will guide the project to its successful completion, adding the contractor or construction manager to the team when you are ready to build. The roles of the library director, the architect and the library consultant are different, and should not be combined. Roles can be assigned flexibly, however, depending on the needs of the project, available resources, and each individual's previous experience, abilities and time constraints. For example, any one of the three could be asked to write the building program; but the other two would be expected to review and comment on it extensively. The perspective of the library consultant is essential to the project. The consultant brings his or her library construction experience to the process as an outside observer, who has successfully gone through the process before.

Next: A Brief History of the Program