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December 2, 1996 Letter to Editor


Dear Editor:

The Library 21 Committee is nearing the end of Phase 2, Casting a Wide Net, of its efforts and we wanted to share our interim results and give an overview of our next steps. Last month, we submitted an interim report to the City Council; copies of the report and our meeting minutes are available in all the libraries and on the City s Web page. We want to especially thank Donald York, of the Cambridge Public Library staff, for his well-written, eloquent minutes.

To review our mission: we are charged by the City Manager to develop recommendations for an expanded main library building. To do that we are looking at the whole library system and the roles, services and physical requirements that will equitably meet Cambridge's needs and enhance the quality of life in the City for the 21st century. Our strategy is to solicit input from all sectors of the Cambridge community. We have tried to set up a very big tent in order to provide a variety of opportunities for discussion.

So far, we have met with over 40 groups, organizations and individuals in the city, including social service organizations, business associations, Cambridge Housing Authority, neighborhood residents, directors of institutional libraries, youth groups, multi cultural groups, parents, school children and many others. We ve held 12 committee meetings all over the City; we ve received dozens of letters and E-mail comments to our Web page. We held a symposium to bring in new thoughts and inspiration, The Public Library in the 21st Century: An Exploration of Possibilities that included practical successes from Joseph Dionne, Director of the Lawrence Public Library, and an urging from Steve Miller, the Cambridgeport author of Civilizing Cyberspace, to consider the public library as the heart of our community that should be accessible to all .

As a way to focus on specific user groups and specific aspects of library planning, we have set up a series of work groups that will be wrapping up their work this month: Kindergarten through 8th Grade, co-chaired by Karen Kosko and Susan Twarog; Young Adult Readers, chaired by Ed DeAngelo; Neighborhoods, chaired by Fran Wirta; Other Libraries, co-chaired by Bill Barry and Ruth Butler; Elder Services, chaired by Emily West; City Archives, chaired by Charlie Sullivan;

Process and Schedule, chaired by Ted Burton; Technology, chaired by John Gintell; Outreach and data organization, chaired by Karen Carmean. We also have a group of 8th graders who have agreed to be a mini Library 21 Committee and will advise us throughout the process.

So what do people want in the library for the 21st century? We have a long, fascinating list; here is a very brief sampling. Young adults want places to set up projects where they can work in groups and won t disturb others; younger kids want their own reference desk and copy machine (comfortable chairs wouldn t hurt, either); young people of all ages want food and a place to eat; everyone wants more computers and hands-on instructions for using them; several immigrant groups want assistance from the library to teach courses on local politics, Cambridge history, self- improvement skills; disabled persons wanted assistance for all types of impairments, including programs to increase awareness; many groups wanted career development assistance.

There are also some common themes: computers and assistance using them to gain access to all kinds of information; programs, books and audio visual materials in many languages; small classrooms and meeting rooms; quiet and comfortable places to read; childrens room arranged by age and activities; open book stacks for browsing; arrangement of physical spaces so everything is easy to find.

Almost everyone we ve talked with feels that the public library system has an opportunity to provide services and collaborate with many types of organizations in the City. We hope that everyone we've met with will consider this a first step: developing library services is an on-going partnership.

During December and early January, we will be organizing all the input into a major wish list which we ll share with everyone for comments and priorities. Our next meeting is January 15, 1997, 6:30, Main Library. Please send comments via E-mail: library21@ci.cambridge.ma.us or mail them to 795 Mass. Ave, Cambridge 02139, attn: Library 21.


Nancy Woods and Richard Rossi, Co-chairs