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Sep 30: Press Release


PRESS RELEASE Contact: Nancy Woods, 223-5166


...and residents speak up: from Internet pen pals to more videos and CD's

The Library 21 Committee is looking for lots of ideas for the library of the future. Not what the buildings should look like, that will come later in the process, but what kinds of services and programs do people want. The Committee hopes to gather these ideas, in part, by engaging people in neighborhoods all over the city in discussions. To that end, it is inviting residents to participate in Work Groups that will meet twice to capture the flavor of what people in various parts of the city want from the public library.

"We are trying lots of ways to gather input from residents. There is no single 'best' approach; we thought that by having small meetings locally, people would be more inclined to participate than if we only held a few big meetings. We've also asked people who manage social service agencies to help us reach people who might not come to meetings, no matter when or where they are held," said Nancy Woods, Co-Chair of the Library 21 Committee.

To date, Neighborhood Work Group meetings have been held in Central Square for Riverside/Cambridgeport and in East Cambridge. Similar work group are planned for West Cambridge, Area IV, and North Cambridge. Fran Wirta, coordinator of the neighborhood meetings, said "The meetings have been terrific; people are very vocal with excellent content and comments. There have been lots of new ideas." Each meeting has a note taker so that all ideas are written down. "We're not censoring anyone, no matter how far-fetched because we want people to have a stake in the Library 21 process and, besides, who's to say what's realistic and what's unrealistic," Wirta said.

Some of the ideas mentioned so far include letting people find book listings on their home computer and check them out for pickup at a branch location, more activities to attract children in grades 6 to 8 so it becomes 'their place of choice'; Internet pen pals to connect Cambridge children to children all over the globe, televisions so people could watch City Council and School Committee meetings, have mini-branch services in more neighborhoods and special services to help people with career development. The two most common requests are for quiet , comfortable places to read and for more computers.

So far the discussions have mostly focused on what a library does and not bricks-and-mortar issues. "Parking is always mentioned as an issue, whether you're taking about the main branch or one of the branches," Wirta said, "but mostly people seem to enjoy letting their imaginations fly." The Library 21 will turn to the physical requirements of the building only after there is a full discussion of what goes into the future library. The Committee is charged with developing recommendations to the City Manager for an outstanding library system for the 21st century.

For more information about the Neighborhood Work Groups, contact Fran Wirta at 576-3541. Upcoming dates for meetings: Collins Branch, October 17; O'Neill Branch, October 22; Central Square Branch, November 7 and East Cambridge Branch, November 18. All meetings are from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

The next meeting of the Library 21 Committee will be on October 16, 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Haggerty School Library, Lawn Street entrance. The public is welcome to attend.