Monday, November 24, 2008

Schematic Design - Putting Together the Puzzle

Creating a functional modern library with the constraints of existing building, site, zoning, neighbors, etc. certainly isn't simple! This is one puzzle with an awful lot of pieces.

Schematic design of the downtown building expansion has just begun - and already received its first major revision. Many features and services of a modern library tend to favor ground-level locations. Marrying that idea and the "raised ranch" floor plan of the existing building, which contains almost no ground-level space, is not easy.

Our ingenious architects at Healy Bender, along with library Board and staff, are working out a way to maximize public space on the larger floors of the addition, while using the smaller existing library levels for staff and lesser used spaces. But as Cliff Bender told staff when they looked at the first version of the design: "I can only guarantee that whatever the final plan is, it will not be this." :-) His point is well taken. Nothing is set in stone until, well, it's actually set in stone!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Library to Help Food Pantry

Have your heard about the Plainfield Interfaith Food Pantry? Housed in the Plainfield Township building, this amazing operation is run entirely by volunteers. Mary Dickerson and her crew are devoted to helping those in need in our community. Suppport of this organization and its wonderful volunteers is needed now more than ever.

Once again, the library will be sponsoring a "Food for Fines" drive. For 2-4 non-perishable food items donated, up to $5 in fines will be forgiven from your Plainfield Library account. For 5 or more items, up to $10 will be forgiven. Please remember the food pantry cannot accept open or expired items.

The library staff will not be exchanging gifts within their departments this year, as they have before. Instead, they are pooling the money they would have spent on those gifts for a donation to the Plainfield Interfaith Food Pantry.

Through these donations to the Plainfield Interfaith Food Pantry, the library staff continues to demonstrate their dedication to the good of our community.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Digging into the Past - or Why There's No Drive-Up Book Drop Today

Scott Rihel, our architect from Healy Bender, is working on the schematic design of the downtown building. As he does so, he's finding where the existing building setbacks, etc. do not meet current zoning. He wants to know if the library received a variance.

Good question. I wasn't here when this building was built, nor was my assistant or any of my administrative staff. Neither was Mike Schwarz at the Village Planning Department or Michelle Gibas, our Village Clerk (at least not in their current positions).

So down we all dig into back files and find all sorts of interesting things: from an intergovernmental agreement to the minutes of the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals to a parking study conducted in 1990.

In reviewing these, I discover that there was a drive-up book drop planned for Illinois Street in front of the library, something that has been brought up before and I never knew why it had been omitted. Now I know.

Village staff and Plan Commission required that it be moved to the library's parking lot, citing an engineering report stating that it "appears that vehicles stopping at the book drop will occupy the northbound lane and block traffic." The drive-up book drop was removed from the plan, with the walk-up book drop on the building remaining.

However, to be located in the library's parking lot, the proposed drive-up book drop would have to be placed on a tall curb. The curb would make the book drop too tall for drive-up service and impossible to use the normal roll-out bin to empty it. Additionally, a parking space would be lost to allow staff to empty the book drop. In the end, no book drop was placed in the parking lot. The walk-up book drop on building remained as the sole book drop.

Today, patrons frequently leave their vehicles standing on Illinois Street to get out and drop items into the book drop on the building. In doing so, they block northbound traffic - precisely what the Village staff and Plan Commission were seeking to avoid when they nixed the Illinois Street book drop. The true irony here is that it takes longer for them to get out and walk to the book drop than it would to use a drive-up book drop.

This peek into the past brings a new perspective to the project. In 18 years, will anyone remember why we made these decisions in the planning process? Will it still make sense? I'm sure we'll create a few problems we can't anticipate by trying to fix others that we can. I just hope that the problems we create are smaller than those we seek to avoid.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Disappointment for Des Plaines Valley Library - and many others

It was disheartening to see this morning's results on library referenda in the State of Illinois.
None passed. Not one single library successfully passed a referendum, regardless of what it was for: annexation of territory, building, or operations. Particularly sad is the defeat of the Des Plaines Valley Public Library District's referenda. Despite desperate need for service, the plan did not garner the support of the community.

Was it the economy? Was it because this would increase taxes? Was it the plan itself? As I ask myself why Des Plaines failed, I focus on how we are communicating the need for this service to the community and gaining your support for a plan that meets your needs without unduly pinching your pocketbook. But we are pretty good at that already: