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May 12, 1997 Letter to Chronicle


Dear Editor:

The Library 21 Committee is nearing the end of Phase III: System Program and about to enter Phase IV: Development of Selected Opportunities where we'll deal with the complexities of siting. At our next meeting on Thursday, May 22, at the Senior Center across from City Hall, at 6:30 p.m., we will discuss the final drafts of our recommendations for a system program for a main library for the 21st century. The Center is accessible and the public is welcome to attend. For those who can't attend, the minutes will be available at all the libraries and on the L21 Internet web page.

During Phase III, we've been working on a package of statements that crystallize all the input to date: vision, audiences that should be served, relationships and cooperation with other entities, the library system configuration, the roles that the main library should carry out for the City and their relative importance, and the specific functions and their space requirements that should be in the main library. At this next meeting, we hope to reach a consensus on these statements. Taken as a whole, they describe a wonderful library unique to Cambridge that will serve as a "civic heart" for our city.

The L21 Committee has received gratifying feedback from all corners lately and, as a group, we are very proud: we've been told again and again that our process has been fair, open and "painstakingly thoughtful." Our goal from our first meeting this time last year has been to demonstrate integrity -- even though it meant creating a fairly long, methodical process to do it.

In this spirit, we also are well aware that the siting issue is on many people's minds. We encourage -- and are encouraged by -- the high level of interest the library has. We want the topic to be on organizations' agenda! We know, for example that there are many people who believe that the main library should be expanded on the Broadway site; others believe that the Broadway site cannot handle any expansion at all; still others are actively looking for suitable locations for a main library in Central Square. As Co- chairs, we feel it is our responsibility to acknowledge these various interests and ensure that everyone knows about them. It is also our responsibility to make sure that the L21 Committee provides a forum for the orderly discussion and consideration of the siting.

To be honest, though, we have not determined exactly how we will proceed; we're working on that right now. We will definitely give a careful examination of the Broadway site. As a committee, we want to guide the process carefully so we can develop as much consensus as possible. To be successful, we need a shared vision for the best library to serve the city well into the 21st century and agreement as to where to put it -- settling controversies by fiat are rarely, if ever satisfactory in Cambridge.

As we get closer to our Phase IV where we look at siting, it may seem that the siting issues are mutually incompatible, but we are convinced that, as a community, we can develop the best recommendation possible. We look forward to everyone continuing to work with us.

Nancy Woods & Richard Rossi