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Library shares survey results

By Staff | Jun 24, 2011

The library project of the Shepherdstown Public Library recently completed a series of hearings, surveys and focus group meetings to obtain input from children and adults regarding the new library.

Ideas and comments were recorded at a public forum on April 14. Additional input was obtained at focused meetings with a diverse array of community groups. Surveys were made available both online and at the library and were also distributed at multiple public events.

Of the nearly 200 adult residents who responded to the survey, the majority view the library as part of the larger community, with over 60 percent indicating that the new library should be both “intimate” and “active-vibrant” with sufficient interior space, comfortable chairs and sofas for reading.

Many view the library as a place to meet, check out books and videos, obtain readily accessible Internet access, attend lectures and film screenings, carry out research, obtain assistance from library staff and share a community bulletin board. Reading technology was also addressed in the survey, with many respondents reporting current or desire to use electronic reading devices.

Regarding the physical structure, a majority of adult respondents envisioned a “green” building with features such as windows with vistas and natural light, an outdoor reading room, native plants/trees and educational garden space. Suggestions for the architectural style of the building varied widely with the majority split between consistency with historic Shepherdstown and an earth-friendly building constructed of exposed native materials. The concepts of dedicated space for adults’, children and teens’ local art featured within the library and a 12- to 20-person meeting space and access for the disabled were also popular. A wide variety of opinions was also offered addressing the planned future use of the current library building, the need for safe pedestrian approaches to and parking at the new library and the potential provision of food services.

A special children’s survey was conducted at Shepherdstown Elementary School in April. One-hundred and fifteen 5th and 6th graders submitted their drawings and ideas about the design and function of their new library in a questionnaire that addressed several categories.

Many students imagined a two-story structure with a grand facade of brick, stone or marble. Attention was given to design of the roof with various thoughts envisioning a domed, glass, rounded, peaked or towered construction. Others saw a flat roof with a roof garden, an eating area including picnic tables and chairs or quiet reading nooks. Several students wrote about solar panels and other energy-saving features. The entry door to the library would be arched or double, automatic or revolving, opening into a large foyer. The students emphasized a welcoming structure and facade complete with a welcoming sign, the American flag and the symbol of the “Eye” incorporated at the top of the entrance.

Interior design suggestions included a loft, balcony or bridge. Drawings and descriptions called forth large and arched windows, providing natural light (even a sunroom effect) and possibly a stained glass window incorporating a book design. Within the library, students requested separate functional areas related to age. Furnishings also received significant attention. Additionally, students listed quiet study areas, reading rooms or classrooms, with emphasis on colorful walls and decor, and perhaps a library ladder. Highest on the list was a peaceful environment.

Focusing on the exterior grounds, students had visions of patios, gardens, terraces, fountains, trees, paths, benches, hammocks, nature trails, a maze and a fish pond. Many drew an outdoor theater or stage with terraced, rounded and permanent seating, as well as an arched garden structure for displaying art.

The question of function brought attention to books, computers, e-books and books on CD. Focusing on activities within the library, students not only envisioned reading books, magazines and newspapers, studying, researching, writing and computing, but their vision of the “library of the future” also included participating in puppet shows, performing/listening to music and plays, gardening and nature clubs, displaying their artwork and exchanging ideas.

The valuable information gathered from these efforts will be used by the library planner and architect to develop a written description of the community’s proposed uses of the new library and to inform the appropriate size of a building to meet these needs.

For more information about the project go to www.thelibraryproject.org.