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Sep 2, 1996: Letter to Editor - 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 the services and programs that will give Cambridge the best library for the next 20 years -- well into the 21st century. We'll also look at the demographics of the potential users of the library over the next 20 years and make sure the library meets their needs. As we've said before, we want to encourage lively discussions on the contents of the library before we get into the physical requirements.

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? Are there 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. How do we ensure that the services reach people of all economic and educational levels?

In the conversations we've had so far, it seems that there is also 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 weave 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 Cambridge residents is to talk about and answer these questions so we can put a "wish list" together for a fantastic urban library system. Of course, we'll eventually have to choose which services have the greatest advantages for us -- we probably cannot have them all -- but we must allow ourselves the luxury to be creative and visionary.

The next meeting of the Library 21 Committee is September 18 at the Main Branch and we'll devote most of the meeting to discussions around these questions. Unless otherwise noted, meetings will be on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays.

Are you traveling soon and want to be a Library 21 "emissary?" Visit to the local public library and make an appointment with a member 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.

Please check out the Library 21 page on the City's home page on the Internet; you can also read the minutes of our meetings 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.

Library 21 Committee Co-Chair,

Nancy Woods