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Thread: Impact of libraries on downtowns / village centers

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    Cyburbian Plus pcjournal's avatar
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    Impact of libraries on downtowns / village centers

    I'm working on a short article for the Planning Commissioners Journal on the value of public libraries to downtowns and village centers. I'd be interested in any feedback about the following:
    -- your own community's experience with libraries -- do you have a downtown public library? what sort of benefits does it bring to your downtown? have there ever been discussions of relocating it outside the downtown area?
    -- any folks I might contact and/or research you're aware of on economic impacts of having libraries downtown.
    -- any planning issues/concerns related to the above.

    The article will be an expansion of a blog posting I did on downtown libraries last May.
    Wayne Senville, Editor
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    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    I don't have much to add, just a plea for longer operating hours. I would think this would be very important if it is expected to be a draw to the downtown activities. My hometown main library is open until 9PM on Monday to Thursday, which is decent, but only 6 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and only 2-6PM on Sunday. I used to live right next door and would have spent alot more time there if they were open when I was free. Even 9PM on weekdays is a little short for some to have a decent non-rushed visit after work and supper is over. By comparison, the small local bookstore is open until 10 every day, and the big bookstore is 10AM-11PM seven days a week, always busy.

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    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by pcjournal View post
    -- any planning issues/concerns related to the above.
    Downtowns having a higher concentration of homeless people and shelters, there's greater incidence of the homeless using downtown libraries as 'daytime homeless shelters', including inappropriate use of the libraries' bathrooms.

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ahhh....

    There could be a parking conflict related to the hours of operation for a library located in a downtown area. You don't want the library users competing for parking spots with local restaurants and other government services, that might annoy the local Downtown Development Authority, if one exists. I agree about the hours of operation being important. Libraries should be closed Monday and Tuesday and open early-late on Saturday and Sunday. This would allow the library to advertise and draw crowds to special speaking events and or things like puppet shows, children's reading hour, library sleep overs and other events that could draw revenue.
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    Im not sure if this is what you mean by "downtown", but in Glenrothes (Scotland) we have down town libraries which provide a good experiance to the locals and essential needs.

    When I was younger I used it for my internet access, found books I could use for english projects etc. Many elderly people use it during the day and the kids use it after school.

    Also, while growing up, wherever there was a local public library, I used it wether to get my "goosebumps" books or to play some stupid game on the internet.

    If it was ever relocated outside of the town we are in (Leslie, small town) then it would have a serious knock on effect of people having to take buses or private transport to the main library, essentially cutting off the less mobile in the community, the young and the old etc.

  6. #6
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pcjournal View post
    I'm working on a short article for the Planning Commissioners Journal on the value of public libraries to downtowns and village centers. I'd be interested in any feedback about the following:
    -- your own community's experience with libraries -- do you have a downtown public library? what sort of benefits does it bring to your downtown? have there ever been discussions of relocating it outside the downtown area?
    -- any folks I might contact and/or research you're aware of on economic impacts of having libraries downtown.
    -- any planning issues/concerns related to the above.

    The article will be an expansion of a blog posting I did on downtown libraries last May.
    Castle Rock, CO, is ~ 44K people and has a library downtown. I suspect the Economic Development Co has all the specific information on the latest survey (that I know of) that found it was a key destination bringing people downtown. David is your very helpful contact and feel free to use my name.

    They just shot down a library bond so there may be some planning impact but generally they are a great partner.

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Although I don't live or work there, I'd suggest contacting the director of the Crandall Library in downtown Glens Falls, NY. They recently completed a major expansion project, but well before it took place, there was some question as to whether the library should even remain downtown.

    Recent article about the library's reopening here.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Our downtown library is not the main branch, but it is heavilly used. it serves as the national automobile archive and is located near a people-mover stop. The main library is much larger ans was designed by Cass Gilbert. When I first stepped foot in the Supreme Courthouse it was defintely DeJavu.

    The big daddy of all downtown libraries has to be the one in Harold Washington Chicago on State Street, every bit as grand as the Classic Chicago Department Stores. It has a great public space on its top floor.
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  9. #9
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    The big daddy of all downtown libraries has to be the one in Harold Washington Chicago on State Street, every bit as grand as the Classic Chicago Department Stores. It has a great public space on its top floor.
    But horrible for use as an actual library.

    I think that in a mainly pedestrian oriented downtown/neighborhood center, a library facility is a great asset. It brings people to a specific area and could easily benefit nearby retail businesses (bookstores, quick service restaurants, etc.).

    In a more auto-oriented downtown/neighborhood center, parking is going to be highest on the list of "things to get right". Ancedotally, shared parking for a library would be a bad idea, simply because the hours of peak use can be throughout the day and there is not much off-peak time that would favorably coincide with other types of businesses, also the vehicles turnover is fairly slow.

    Disclaimer: I haven't done much objective research on this subject, but as the son of two librarians, I have spent alot of time in libraries.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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  10. #10
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    The Albuqueruque Downtown Library gets a lot of use. It was designed by George Pearl who was a fairly well known architect around here. It also sees a lot of homeless use during the day as many services are close by. At times, it can be a little overwhelming and the bathroom use is an issue.

    They recently completed a remodeling/small expansion which, among other things, has incorporated more computers and I read recently that libraries are serving a pretty large role as a job resource center these days. I think they are looking to have staff people who can assist folks with resumes, job searches, etc. I think that would likely be a big difference in the library's role over time.

    Our library also has a rather nice small-ish auditorium, but this is very underused.

    Our downtown library also has scarce parking. As a local resident, access is not a problem, but for others, it may be.

    The library has also been the site of some public art pieces, including a temporary mural painted by youth in a summer teen art employment program.

    That's all I can think of at the moment. We rent a lot of kids movies there...
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    Hi, Wayne. Thanks for printing my sidebar on pattern books in the Summer 2008 edition. I hope I can contribute additional material soon.

    Regarding downtown libraries, I would suggest researching the library in the River Market District in Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. The Central Arkansas Library System has been a major player in the development of the River Market District and recently expanded its Arkansas Studies Institute into a second building (which has its own unique architectural flair, but that's neither here nor there).
    Last edited by mendelman; 11 Feb 2009 at 6:18 PM.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus pcjournal's avatar
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    Thanks for all those great suggestions for me to follow up on.

    I'm also curious if anyone has come across libraries that are co-located with either housing or commercial development?

    Quote Originally posted by Seana View post
    Downtowns having a higher concentration of homeless people and shelters, there's greater incidence of the homeless using downtown libraries as 'daytime homeless shelters', including inappropriate use of the libraries' bathrooms.
    That's a good point, and I think it also applies to other downtown uses which have public restrooms -- which may explain why it's so hard to find a public restroom in many downtowns. Perhaps grist for another article.

    Quote Originally posted by dsmccafferty View post
    If it was ever relocated outside of the town we are in (Leslie, small town) then it would have a serious knock on effect of people having to take buses or private transport to the main library, essentially cutting off the less mobile in the community, the young and the old etc.
    That's precisely the problem in the U.S. with so many public buildings -- libraries, post offices, and even courthouses -- moving out of central locations to the periphery of the town.

    ... I'm curious, also, in Scotland what do you call the central part of a city or town?
    Last edited by mendelman; 11 Feb 2009 at 6:21 PM. Reason: mulitple posts consolidated
    Wayne Senville, Editor
    PlannersWeb.com / Planning Commissioners Journal
    P.O. Box 4295, Burlington, VT 05406

    Website: www.plannersweb.com/
    Linkedin:www.linkedin.com/in/waynesenville
    Twitter: www.twitter.com/PlanningJournal
    email: pcjoffice@gmail.com


  13. #13
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pcjournal View post
    Thanks for all those great suggestions for me to follow up on.

    I'm also curious if anyone has come across libraries that are co-located with either housing or commercial development?
    The City of Madison, Wisconsin, has placed a branch library in a strip center in one of its neighborhoods (Northport). The library fills space that would not otherwise be occupied, as the market has shifted and there is little demand for retail in that location. Traffic to the library likely does influence sales at other businesses in the center.
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  14. #14
    Siting a library in downtown is also important. Our historic Carnegie library was situated very close to the 100% corner. The replacement modern library, which serves the entire county, is at the edge of the CBD, where it has direct access to the lone interstate ramp in our city. This was done in part, I'm sure, to assuage county residents who looked with some disdain on "the dangerous city". (Many still express similar feelings today). While county residents do indeed have easy access, there is positively no spin-off visits from having this trip generator in the CBD.

    I have often thought that the city should buy the library, rehab it for a new city hall, and help the county build a new library in a better downtown location. I don't say it out loud, however, as it might open the can of worms from which the county would conclude that an ex-urban location would be superior and we'd lose the library entirely.
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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I do know of a fairly new library in downtown Des Plaines, IL that brought significant economic development to their downtown. The library included small ground-level retail shops and services as well as shops in an adjacent building that was technically part of the library development. It really revitalized that whole area.
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    Although I don't live or work there, I'd suggest contacting the director of the Crandall Library in downtown Glens Falls, NY. They recently completed a major expansion project, but well before it took place, there was some question as to whether the library should even remain downtown.

    Recent article about the library's reopening here.
    -----------
    IIRC, Crandall is somewhat unique because it has a taxation district that is separate from the city. I think it goes at least into the adjoining town of Queensbury. Because of that, there was the opportunity to more the library out of the city (not just out of the downtown). Queensbury is the retail shopping hub of the lower Adirondacks and has every chain-store known to man -- but lots and lots of parking. Downtown Glens Falls has very limited parking.

    For most libraries in upstate NY, the library is in the city and therefore city taxes go to pay for it. Residents of the towns can use it for free but don't pay to support it. It's not exactly equitable.

    I don't see a lot of spin-off off of our libraries. We have completely separate libraries in a community of under 5,000. Both are public but one is owned by the city and the other is tribal. The biggest spin-off is for low-income people to gain access to computers and as a place for tutors to meet with kids in out-of-school suspension.

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