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Aug 25, 1996: Cambridge Chronicle - Letter to the Editor


Letter to Cambridge Chronicle

Dear Editor:

A friend asked me the other day when the Library 21 Committee was going to get down to its real work. She was glad that we had spent some time getting organized, but she was clearly ready for us to get on with it. And she's right. The "real work" is to define a set of services and programs that will give Cambridge the very best library for at least the next 20 years, well into the 21st century. As we've said many times before, we want to encourage lively discussions on the contents of the library that will serve all of us before we get into the physical requirements. Concurrently, we will look at the demographics of who the potential users of library will be over the next 20 years and make sure the library meets their needs.

All through the Fall, we'll be asking people who live and work in Cambridge several simple questions:

1. How important to you and the City are the following roles that public libraries typically play? What roles should each of the branches play? Are their other roles we haven't thought of?

- Community activities center

- Center for information about Cambridge and/or neighborhoods

- Educational support center for students of all ages

- Learning center for adult independent learners

- Civic building for all sorts of events and gatherings

- Recreational reading center of popular materials and best sellers

- Discovery and learning center for preschool children

- Access to cutting-edge information technology

- Information center for Cambridge businesses

- General information center for Cambridge residents

- Research center for scholars and researchers

- A comfortable, quiet place to read, think and work

2. Within the roles that are most important to you, what kinds of services and programs do you personally want?

3. Once we've identified a full set of services from all the input, how do we ensure that the services reach people of all economic and educational levels?

In the conversations we've had so far, it is clear that there is tremendous potential for the Cambridge Public Library to increase its partnership role with the many public and private institutions in Cambridge. There are countless service-providers in the City, from literacy programs to Head Start to business start-up assistance, and the Library services can be woven through them to provide resource materials and information. The opportunities are endless.

The Library 21 Committee's challenge is to create the environment for discussions so we can develop a shared agenda for a future library system. The challenge to everyone who lives in Cambridge is to talk about and answer these questions so we can put a huge "wish list" together that really defines a fantastic urban library system. Of course, we'll eventually have to choose which services have the greatest advantages for us -- we probably can't have them all -- but we must at least allow ourselves the luxury to be creative and visionary first.

The next meeting of the Library 21 Committee is September 4th at the Boudreau Branch, 245 Concord Avenue; it's a very small branch and seating is extremely limited. We'll make sure the minutes get out very soon afterwards. The following meeting will be on September 18th at the Main Library and we'll provide most of the meeting to discussions around these questions. Unless otherwise noted, meetings will be on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays.

Please check out the Library 21 page on the City's home page on the Internet; minutes of our meetings can also be read at all the branch libraries. Send your comments on these questions and other library issues to the Committee c/o the City Manager's Office, 795 Massachusetts Ave., 02139.

Are you traveling soon and want to be a Library 21 "emissary?" Visit to the local public library and make an appointment with one of the staff. We have a long list of questions to ask that will help us learn first hand about other libraries. The City Manager's Office can give you a copy if you call Lisa Peterson, 349-4300.

Library 21 Committee Co-chair,

Nancy Woods