Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Knowledge Center for Nevada’s state capital

There is considerable discussion both locally and nationally about the future of libraries. There are those who hold a “Kindle” in their hands and proclaim the library as we know it is dead- yet despite those type of pronouncements the library in Carson City and public libraries across the nation in some of the worst financial times libraries have ever faced- continue not only to exist but to expand their reach, influence and importance in their community.

The proposed City Center project offers this City a unique opportunity to build a 21st century Knowledge Center AKA library like no other in our country. Our Knowledge Center will have many similarities to the IGT/Mathewson Knowledge Center at the UNR campus, but it will also be different because it is public library- which means it belongs to everyone.

When Mae Adams left the bulk of her estate from her family’s ownership of the Carson Nugget to the Carson City community she stipulated it must particularly benefit young people. There are no doubt a number of worthy places that help the youth of Carson City and a number of organizations that provide benefit to great numbers in our community- but I think there are none that are in the position to serve everyone, from the least fortunate in the community to the very wealthy, from the new born to the person near the end of their life, to the baby, preschooler, child, young adult, adult, senior…there isn’t a single gender, age or socioeconomic strata in the Carson City community the public library does not serve.

Nationwide public libraries have become an even more essential resource in these very tough economic times. A recent report Perceptions of Libraries 2010 indicates that nationwide 81% of those economically impacted by the current national financial crisis have and use a library card. In Carson City when unemployment has been around 14% for more than a year this library can attest to being critical to those hurting in the downturn. In the past year every measure of library use is up- people with library cards, checking out of materials, children’s programs, computer use, assistance with information requests, every service we provide is more in demand and more utilized- so it is impossible to provide any proof in any way that this library is becoming obsolete. What we do know is the facility of 900 N. Roop is simply too small to do any of our services well- every innovation or change causes a disruption to another service- the lack of space limits us- we can’t be much more than we are today- even though we work very, very hard to do just that.

However, an opportunity has become available to be different to take everything we do well and do it better- take our services to a very different level. The plan for the Knowledge Center comes close to tripling our space- adding the most needed element- room to have more materials, room for all ages of children, room for computers and other technology, room to serve the business community with specialized resources and meeting places, room to be
Carson City’s community gathering place- the place where all are welcome and all gain something of value from visiting. Beyond being of value to our community, new libraries located in downtowns all over America have proven to be economic catalysts. From Seattle to Denver to Salt Lake City, a new library is seen by urban planners as a true economic catalyst Wayne Servile editor of the Planning Commissioners Journal wrote “when libraries are located downtown there’s also a special synergy at work. Libraries generate increased business for local merchants while those shopping or working downtown visit the library as part of their day. Libraries and community. They’re really inseparable.”

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