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January 6, 1997 Letter to Editor


Dear Editor:

The next meeting of the Library 21 Committee is January 15, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Main Library. The Library is accessible and the meeting is open to the public. We are going to a longer, but less frequent meetings and we will not be meeting in as many different locations as our prior meetings. While we know our meetings have been moving targets, we felt that it was important to go to neighborhoods, rather than expecting people to come to us.

At this meeting, the Committee members will make presentations of their Work Group findings and will discuss and interpret the data. We need to begin to grapple with the questions of who should provide the services, and, assuming that the library provides them, how best to distribute them among the various library facilities. We certainly do not expect to this to be an easy process, but we can guarantee you that it will be carried out in the public arena.

Also at the meeting, we will also establish a new Work Group on Finance and Fundraising and, as with all our groups, one doesn t have to be on the Committee to serve on a work group. We ll put everyone to work! One of the group s first tasks will be to explore the possibilities for state funding and, later to develop a public and private funding strategy that will support the Committee s recommendations.

In January, we re going to try to wrap up our gathering input phase: we will meet with the Agassiz neighborhood, with several more groups in Area 4 and with representatives from the business community. Fortunately, we ve been able to meet with many, many groups when the groups are having regular meetings. We have gathered high quality information partly because people tend to be more comfortable in their own environment and on their own time schedule.

Our Work Group on Elders in the Cambridge community, ably chaired by Emily West, is finding that they like programs at the libraries: exercise classes, author talks, book groups, autobiography workshops, discussion groups. In fact these programs are often the attraction that brings them to the building and from there, they find other uses. This kind of programmatic use is called Community Activity Center in the American Library Association s basic roles for public libraries. In terms of using computers to find their information, Elders are no different from those of us who were well into adulthood when these creatures became household items -- they find the hard and software confusing, want help, but don t like to ask for it! Many Elders are interested in using the library system as an Independent Learning Center.

Other Elders that we talked with at the Harry S. Truman apartments had concerns about mobility. It is very difficult for some folks to go very far from home. If they do drive, they want parking close by the library. If they don t get out, they appreciate that the library staff brings books to them. While shuttle busses may seem a solution, timing and frequency are always difficult. Many people, including Elders themselves, said that Elders, particularly those with impaired sight or for whom reading is difficult, would enjoy books on tape or books with super large type. And, like most everyone we ve talked with, from kids on up, Elders have told us they want what s new in materials.

We welcome your comments, questions and challenges via e-mail: library21@ci.cambridge.ma.us; or by mail, 795 Mass. Ave., Cambridge 02139, attn: Library 21.

Nancy Woods and Richard Rossi, Co-Chairs, Library 21 Committee