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Library plans mulled

By Staff | Apr 21, 2011

Shepherdstown residents gathered Thursday at Shepherd University’s Byrd Center for Legislative Studies to brainstorm plans for the new Shepherdstown Public Library.

The inclusive meeting allowed residents to share what they wanted to see in the new structure, which is tentatively slated to sit on a 4.5-acre plot of land near the Clarion Hotel.

According to Library Director Hali Taylor, the library currently has two Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center FOCUS grants totaling $17,000. Once concepts for the library are put together to determine a size for the facility, then a total cost for the new building will be established and more fundraising can begin.

Charles Alexander, lead principal of Alexander Design Studios in Ellicott City, Md., and Rich Bowra, a Harrisburg, Pa., library consultant led the meeting, as they will be working on the project. The Shepherdstown Library Board chose Alexander’s firm from a list of others to spearhead the construction.

“This is a really important process,” Alexander said. “And it’s very important that you’re a part of it. Because this is something that really has to come from the community, because a lot of the heavy lifting on this is going to be right back on your shoulders.”

Bowra fielded ideas from residents about what types of services the library should offer in its new facility, what the structure could look like from the inside out, how “green” the library should be and what the current facility could possibly be used for.

Residents offered ideas for children, “tween” and teen departments as well as adult and senior extended educational offerings.

Taylor said community members offered great ideas that will be able to contribute to the design phase of the project. Next, Taylor wants to hear from residents who don’t frequent the library often. Focus groups also will be formed to represent populations not part of the larger public.

“This is the time to really dream big and really to think of everything we’d like to include,” Taylor said. “The natural outcome of this would be some concept of a library.”

Ed Zahniser, a writer and editor for the National Parks Service and self-proclaimed “print junkie and avid reader,” sees the library as a lifelong learning center. He said it’s important members of the community have access to information property vetted by reliable sources.

“We need lifelong learning centers where people are encouraged to keep their minds open and moving forward,” he said.

One service Zahniser would like to see offered is a mentoring program in which community members can work with one another. Zahniser thinks this type of social learning is more effective than individuals working alone. He sees libraries community learning centers fostering these types of relationships.

Mark Wirt is a library board member and a father of two children who makes “heavy use” of the library.

“We are in the library almost every weekend and a couple times a week,” he said.

Wirt was glad to see residents come out to the meeting and produce interesting ideas.

But Wirt sees this project as something individuals will get emotionally involved in. Right now, he said, the library is metaphorically and physically the center of town. Once the new facility goes up outside of the historic district, residents need to find a way to continue to keep it the center of town metaphorically, Wirt said.

“(Residents) have a lot of investment in the library,” he said. “It’s important to them.”

Residents can continue to share their ideas for the new library at survey.thelibraryproject.org. Printed copies of the survey are available at the Shepherdstown Public Library, 100 W. German St.