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Library 21 Program Report: In Brief


Program Report

In Brief

This is an overview of the recommendations of the Library 21 Committee for the Cambridge Public Library as it enters the 21st Century. The summary provides a brief look at the following topics:

Library 21 Committee

Nancy Woods, Richard Rossi, Co Chairs

Bill Barry, Roger Boothe, Ruth Butler, Karen Carmean,

Susan Clippinger, Ed DeAngelo, Susan Flannery, John Gintell,

Olive Johnson, Karen Kosko, Andre Mayer, Pat Murphy,

Charles Sullivan, David Szlag, Emily West, Robert Winters


The Library 21 Committee was appointed in May 1996 by the City Manager in response to a City Council order. The Committee, composed of residents and city officials, was asked to make a comprehensive study of the needs of the Cambridge Public Library and to involve the broadest possible cross-section of the Cambridge community in the process. The Committee met 20 times in open, interactive public meetings. [Minutes are available in all branch libraries and on the website: www.ci.cambridge.ma.us/~CPL/Lib21]

Through these meetings, through letters and e-mail, the Committee received suggestions from about 40 different community organizations and hundreds of residents. At the same time, the Committee created Work Groups, which were augmented by non-Committee members, to address specific issues and topics: technology; Cambridge archives and history; other library systems; and the interests and needs of young adults, elders, and neighborhoods. A computerized database was created to record all the comments and suggestions some 3,000 entries received as a result of this public outreach. Meanwhile, the Library 21 committee continued to study the operation of the current Library system, to review previous studies of the Library, to evaluate the findings of Work Groups, and to solicit and consider public commentary.

Support for the efforts of Library 21 was widespread. The Cambridge Library Director and staff gave freely of their time and expertise to describe library issues, familiarize the committee with the main library and its branches , and to produce comprehensive minutes of meetings. Outside experts participated in a symposium on library and information services. Committee members met with staff of libraries in other towns whose library programs had successfully been expanded. Members of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the MIT library system addressed Committee meetings. Finally, a panel of librarians reviewed the Library 21 committee's proposals for Cambridge Library expansion.


The Cambridge Public Library is a dynamic, community-oriented library system providing services, collections, and programs for all members of the community. Yet, in simplest terms, a library is also a physical container, and it is clear to any observer that the current main library is no longer physically adequate to meet the needs of the City of Cambridge. The current collection does not fit; there are not enough seats for patrons; and the staff is severely overcrowded.

Renovation and a small addition would fail to meet today's needs and would fall far short of future requirements. The current main building occupies 35,000 square feet; if it were expanded to about 45,000 square feet, or 25%, simply to meet Americans for Disability Act standards, there still would not be enough room to accommodate building systems, meeting spaces, increased collections, more patrons, and more computers. The American Library Association recommends 1 square foot per capita, which for Cambridge adds up to 95,000 square feet. In fact, the Library 21 committee believes that 90,000 to 100,000 square feet are needed to house a program that is adequate for now and provides for future growth.

For purposes of comparison, Newton’s (population 80,238) new library covers 91,000 square feet and Waltham’s (population 57,214) expanded library is 46,000 square feet, while Arlington’s (population 43,656) is 44,000 square feet. Santa Monica (CA) (population 90,000), a community of size and demographics similar to Cambridge, has plans to double its 74,000 sq. ft. main library. Other libraries across the country Broward County (FL), Denver, San Francisco, San Antonio, Phoenix, to name a few have new libraries that occupy close to 300,000 sq.ft.

There are those who have voiced the concern that computer and networking technology could render the public library obsolete. The Library 21 Committee does not subscribe to such thinking. In fact, the Committee expects to see increased usage of the public library because of technology. This expectation has been bolstered by reports from other libraries that have recently expanded and added new technology: they report increased non-technology use and concurrent t need for more support staff. Furthermore, reports about book publishing indicate that it is a burgeoning industry, with the number of books and magazines in print increasing monthly. It is also important to note that, although the cost of the technology itself has been dropping, and increasing numbers of people have home or office access to computers, still the cost (and the difficulty of use and maintenance) will remain prohibitive to many. In this sense, a library with up-to-date technology that is made accessible by knowledgeable, professional staff will help narrow the gap between the information haves and have-nots continuing a democratic tradition that public libraries have always upheld. The $400 million Gates Library Foundation, established recently to support libraries and technology, offers compelling evidence that the committee is not alone in expecting a strong role for public libraries in the next century.


The goal of Library 21 is the creation of a singularly outstanding Library facility, one that is in harmony with the unusual nature of our extremely diverse community, distinguished by age, history, institutions, individuals, and events that have given it world renown.

Library 21 envisions the new public library as the 'civic heart' of Cambridge, providing equal access to knowledge for every person in the city, and made manifest in a distinguished work of architecture, enlarged collections, and enriched programs that would serve and attract even greater numbers of citizens than at present. The enlarged space would house resources from the traditional library as we know it, as well as new services particularly new technologies that would help link and unify the city.

The Library 21 committee further hopes that visitors to Cambridge will place the library high on their list of places to see, and that the new facility will be a legacy to the city of which current civic officials will be most proud.


The target audience for the future main library is as diverse as the city itself, including everyone who lives in, works in or visits the City of Cambridge. The system as a whole (the main building and six branches) should be known for its innovative outreach initiatives to serve this audience. The programs and services must evolve with the changing needs and the interests of its audience.


Library 21 has concluded that a large main library is needed. Having considered a range of alternatives, including a completely decentralized main library, with functions in various locations, the Library 21 committee found no solutions as cost effective or feasible as a completely new facility that can provide services to its patrons and more effectively support the current branches.


As a central public source of information, the Cambridge Public Library has a unique role in the life of the community. In order to fulfill this role, it is essential that there be meaningful interactions with other city agencies and associations providing complementary services, such as human services, cultural organizations, and the Historical Commission. The Library 21 committee especially notes the need for a stronger collaboration between the School Department and library staff and suggests the designation of a key School Department staff member to work as liaison with the Library. While the Library should most certainly collaborate with such groups, it should not be expected to have a lead role in creating the relationships.


The Library 21 committee followed the American Library Association's definitions of a library's roles, adding to these one more that the Committee considered important the Civic Heart of the city. For each role, three forms of critical resources are considered: the collection, the staff, and the facility itself. The committee has made specific recommendations for each role and assigned a level of importance to each.




Civic Heart

As Civic Heart, the main library would become one of the major cultural, social, and education centers of the city a crossroads of people and activities.


Childs Door to Learning

A variety of programs, a broad collection of materials (print and non-print), and technology to attract and involve children and accompanying adults in a wide range of activities. Space for quiet and noisy activities. Staff with appropriate skills and interests.


Popular Materials Library

A well-stocked collection with ample room for expansion. The collection would include fiction and non-fiction in print and electronic form. Browsing would be enhanced by attractive exhibits and appropriate, professional publicity to attract users.


Independent Learning Center

Collections, technology, multi-media facilities, and study space to assist individuals in their on-going self-directed learning activities.


Formal Education Support Center

Collections to supplement those of the learning institutions, access to reference materials, and space to work and study independently or in small groups. Strongest emphasis would be on primary and secondary education, coordinated with the School Department and the Community Learning Center. Support for distance learning would be included here.


Reference Library

Print and electronic materials, with trained staff to assist users in accessing their needs. Technology would provide access to this service from branches and homes/offices.


Research Center

Space for storage of and access to selected city archives of general interest, and Cambridge historical and genealogical material. An archivist and Cambridge historical expert would be needed. Display space and secure storage space for rare materials would also be needed.

Primary for Cambridge Research 

Community Information Center

Space and cataloging expertise for storage of community information from diverse organizations. Some of this information would be available on a library-managed Website where the content would be placed by personnel from the community organizations.


Community Activities Center

Library resources such as meeting rooms, while primarily designated for Library sponsored programs, would also be made available to community organizations for events that are not necessarily connected to the library .



In determining the program for the main library, the Library 21 Committee considered the functions of the library and how these are translated into space within a library building. Library 21 used the Cambridge Public Library Needs Assessment Report 1994, together with input from the library staff and the public, as the baseline for determining future needs.

Although the various space/functions described below appear to require rooms in and of them, this is not always the case. In any event, the Library 21 committee recommendations focus on an overall program and not on the division or organization of space. Actual space allocation would follow standard planning guidelines and building and architectural considerations. Space for staff and building systems (such as bathrooms, HVAC, etc.), most of which are not part of the public space, are not discussed here, but are included in the overall space requirements.


This area is the library entry and exit; it contains the circulation desk for all services, new book display in attractive face-front format, and display/exhibit space for both library and community information. Important features are staffed and self-service check out stations, a vandal-proof book drop, sorting area, office/workroom space and automated book return. Techniques to welcome visitors, including an orientation map, and changing and engaging visual displays would be used. Also, the library should have a designated snack area that is both easy to find and to supervise. It might be located here, or closer to the meeting spaces.


The staff provides one-stop service, in which one staff member provides assistance until a patron's needs are met. The collection includes health, retirement, financial, nutrition, career, parenting, and business materials, among others. Supportive technology for disabled persons is available. The majority of computers for reading, writing, Internet access, local web pages and language instruction are located here. There is a training room with personal computers for all kinds of learning programs, including reading and computer skills. There is ample staff workspace and a photocopier alcove. Telephone reference services have a separate space. Periodical space is doubled (from present levels) to hold current and back issues and include new materials such as international foreign language periodicals.


Although this is singled out as a separate collection, some of it is to be shelved with related print material. It meets patron demand for more educational training programs, browsing and listening/viewing spaces, language programs, listening equipment (headphones, tape recorders, etc.), popular music and books on tape. Popular educational programs and non-commercial videotapes of local performances, workshops, training programs, lectures, and significant city hearings could be included.

With increased usage and availability of audiovisual or multimedia materials, space to house these resources should be expandable and made of appropriate material (for protection against magnetic damage, scratching and heat). Flexible listening and viewing spaces for one-person and groups are provided.


This collection contains archival and historical materials about the city and its population. It includes Cambridge local history, information about people of note, maps, portraits, pamphlets, artifacts and genealogical materials . The materials will be readily accessible to researchers, lay people and school children. The bulk of city records, while stored off-site, will be catalogued in the Cambridge History Room and available on demand. Adequate study space, technology, climate control, compact shelving, lockable shelves or files for storage of irreplaceable materials and archival displays is provided.


This includes all the fiction and non-fiction shelving, except for new books. There would be comfortable chairs, tables for quiet activities and computers for catalog access. Attention will be paid to the diverse and special needs population with materials at various levels of reading skills, support for visual disabilities, foreign language requirements and multicultural materials. Some items might be stored off-site, in conjunction with other libraries, but available on request.


Young adults desire their own space where they can be comfortable. A responsive staff, 'quiet' and 'noisy' areas are high on their wish list. The Library 21 committee recognizes that young adults want space of their own, but do not necessarily wish to be segregated. Proximity to the reference area would facilitate its use and would be helpful for young adults to carry out their assignments. This area contains tables, lounge chairs, study rooms and carrels, computers for homework and games, and young-adult oriented browsing materials. (Young adults could also tutor others in computer use here.)


This space will be comfortable and inviting, with carpeting and a flexible layout. The hope is to immediately engage children as they come in. Besides a reference desk, it includes age-appropriate seating (chairs for toddlers, bigger children, and adults), love seats, tables for homework, personal computer s for writing, reading and research, a photocopier alcove, convenient rest rooms, a program room, and a study/listening area. Children want computer and other games, Internet and e-mail, a puppet theater, storage bins for toys, space for crafts and homework, noisy and quiet areas, group study areas and thematic activity boxes like those at the Science Museum. The children's staff has nearby office and work areas.


These are flexibly configured spaces throughout the library with options for use by moderate and large sized groups to support a wide range of library programs. Additional 'quiet' and 'noisy' study rooms for groups larger than 4 people are provided. The committee has found that large and small meeting and work rooms in new libraries in comparable cities are heavily in demand; the new Main Library should have a broad menu of meeting and work spaces and develop a comprehensive use policy for these facilities.

The Library 21 committee notes a strong need for a performance area, meeting space for the community, book clubs, discussion groups, etc. that can be partially met by an auditorium space. An auditorium for 200-350 people would have its own lobby, rest rooms, exhibit space, storage area and 'green' rooms.


The Library 21 Committee concluded the program development phase on September 30, 1997, when it submitted its Interim Report to the City Manager. This report is available on the Committee's website and at each branch of the Cambridge Public Library.

The Committee is very grateful to all those in Cambridge and around the country who contributed to this report.


The Library 21 Committee could not have done its work without help and thoughtful ideas from many, many people. We want to especially thank the following people and organizations who advised us, critiqued our work, helped gather public comments, participated in work groups and, in general, added to our knowledge:

Greg Anderson, Library 2000 Project, MIT

Mo Barbosa, Area Four Youth Center

Meredith Bellows

Ted Burton

Margaret Bush, Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science

Cambridge Civic Association

Cambridge Civic Network and the Town Crier

Kathryn Carleton

Central Square Neighborhood Coalition

John Connery

Jim Conry, Cambridge Public Schools

Joseph Dionne, Lawrence Public Library

Kathryn Erat

Keith Fiels, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

The Friends of the Cambridge Public Library

Friends of Mid-Cambridge Park

Richard Griffin

Patience Jackson, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Thomas Jewel, Waltham Public Library

Penelope Johnson, Worcester Public Library

Caroline Kent, Widener Library, Harvard University

Kathy Klemperer

Joan Krizack

Libraries for the Future

Joan Lorentz

James Matarazzo, Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science

Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association

Steve Miller, author, Civilizing Cyberspace

Mulberry Studio

Neighbors for Our Library

Nancy Nyhan

Lisa Peterson

Mark Pinson

Paula Polk, Morse Institute Library, Natick

Mary Preston

Elena Saporta

Edward Sarasin, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School

A. Anthony Tappe, A. Anthony Tappe Associates

Hope Tompkins

Susan Twarog

Fran Wirta

Ann Wolpert, MIT Libraries

The entire staff of the Cambridge Public Library, with special thanks to Donald York for writing all of our excellent minutes

The staff in the public libraries of: Arlington, Newton, Everett, Waltham, Plymouth, Ann Arbor, Broward County, Phoenix, Santa Monica, San Antonio, San Diego

In addition, we'd like to thank

Committee members interviewed many, many people, some of whom are listed below; others assisted us in a variety of ways and we'd like to thank them as well for helping to make our program for a Library for the 21st century as richly textured as the city itself.

We do not mean to imply that anyone listed below endorses or supports this program but that we appreciate the time and comments they each gave us.

Agassiz Neighborhood Council

Terry Delancey

Cambridge Community TV

Susan Fleischmann, Ginny Berkowitz, Edwin Ortiz, John Donovan, Philip Chonac ky, Rafael Medina, Anneita Agritha, Molly Coslin, Meredith Joy

Cambridge Housing Authority

Daniel J. Wuenschel

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Ahora Program

Nyal Fuentes and many high school students and tutors

City of Cambridge Human Services Department

After-school Programs

Kitty Kramer, Debbie Steiner, Gretchen Iversen, Crystal Nicolosi, Trisha De St. Croix, Colin McDermott, Michele Behan, Teresa Chase

Community Learning Center

Mina Reddy, Bob Aimo, Angela Aimo, Pamela Beckett, Ligia Borrero, Barbara Brooks, Joan Bruzzese, Nellie Dedmon, Debre Foxx, John Galli, Linda Huntingt on, Erik Jacobson, Margie Jacobs, Esther Leonelli, Betsy Lowry, Susan Nylen-Ques ada, Mildred Rivera, Lally Stowell, Marie Juliette Andre, Silvana P. Batista, Madelaine Buzard, Gabriel Cadet, Paul Marseille, Rosemarie Moorehead, Douyon J. Patric, Helder Vallaci, Cynthia Mitchell, Anne-Rose Joseph, Leroy Bush, Ronald Hernandez, Lelio Tils Nicolas, Joseph Hercule, Eugenio Fernandes, Michael Dukenia, Gordon Villafana, Jorge Parietta, Flor Maria Grevova, Muham med Khalid, Irangani Gurusinha, Esther Bhatti

Community Schools and Youth Managers

Judy Bibbins, Marisol Arroyo, Lisa Deller, Eileen Keegan, Andrew Spooner, Roslyn Shoy, Bob Goodwin, Michael Daniliuk, Diane Scott, Joseph G. Grassi, Stephen Christo

Council on Aging

Eileen Ginnetty

Office of Workforce Development; City-wide Youth Employment Office

Andrea Levy, Michelle Farnum, Nicole Rodriguez, Rondel Lashley, Donna Masteroianni

Planning and Development

Stephanie Ackert, Fred Berman, Aeilia Parker-Kelleher, Len Thomas, Gaston Poufong, Nancy Daniels, Margaret Lauritson-Lada, Cynthia Abalt, Mario Morenc y, Ken Barnes, Susan Mintz, Ellen Davis, Kitty Jerome, Jack Vondras

Parks and Recreation

Paul Ryder, Donna Cameron, Kevin Clark

City of Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities

Jennifer Ruddy, Michael Muehe, Paul J. Schlaver, Jane C. Carroll, Moe Armstr ong, Samuel Berk, Diana Cormican, Bob Patterson

City of Cambridge Veterans Services

Robert Stevens

East Cambridge Planning Team

Richard Vendetti, Doug Willen, Steve Sack, Robert Green, Nicholas Geragery, Helen Iantosca, Jennie Iantosca, Dolly Duffy, Elizabeth Ann Voto, Wanda Piec int, Joyce Travers Brito, Frank Marganelli, Pam Thomure, Hugo Salemne, Lt. John Hallice, Frank Birdage, Pat McGuire, Manny Rogers, John McKim, Becky Brannon , Chester Galemkind, Ed O'Connell, Charles Hunter

Haitian Parents Advisory Council

Jean-Baptiste Franklin, Simone Grand-pierre, Hector Tumpere, George Aurillo

Longfellow School Council

Margarita Otero-Alvarez, Sharon Fernandes, Joanne Laidley, Penelope Kleespie s, Sati Singh, Dawna Traversi, Veronic Davoso, Arleen Greene

Massachusetts Portuguese Speakers Association

Victor DeCouto, Paul Pinto

North Cambridge Crime Task Force

Gerry Meidkeljohn, Liz M. Parise, Josie Avakian, Frank M. McCusker, Nicholas F. Romusco, Frank Pasquarello, Bill Mergenaahl, Joseph J. Jean-Leger, Larry Burke, Harry Johnson

and a few others

John R. Moot, John Hildebidle, Carol M. Cerf, Phoebe Leed, Nancy Hall, Don Saklad, Phyllis Stern, Holly Korda, Carolyn R. Swift, Rev. Elizabeth P. Wiesner, Timothy Bailey, Susan Horton, Peter Kinder, Rita Sabina Mendosa, Jane Rich, Phoebe Wells, Tadek Gaj, Julia Burch, Josie Patterson, Corrine Jacobs, Geneva Malenfant, Julia Perez, Frances Ackerly, Gloria Robinson, E. Wilbur, Martin Jukovsky, Leslie Everett, Peter Bruckner.