Old city managers are probably not supposed to feel giddy about anything. I think we are expected to project an image of stoic responsibility, along with a touch of omniscience and detachment. Anyone who has ever read these blogs already knows that I shattered that illusion a long time ago. I am proudly giddy about our new library, and I know it’s a great addition to the community. I am truly excited about its opening on Monday, and I think everyone associated with that opening should feel some justifiable pride in a job well done.
The community owes a great debt of gratitude to the donor who provided most of the money to purchase the Unitrin building and remodel it into the attractive and functional library it has become. Money can be put to many good uses, but I share our donor’s belief that feeding minds is among the best. Occasionally, someone who hasn’t visited a library in recent years makes the claim that libraries are irrelevant in the Information Age. As someone who has used libraries throughout my life and monitored their utility as a city manager for more than 20 years, I have never seen a time when library services were in greater demand than they are today. People of all ages who would otherwise be excluded from Internet access use library computers for everything from job searches to finding recipes. Books (traditional and audio), DVDs, CDs, puppets, newspapers, magazines, reference material, and helpful people, to name a few, are all part of the library experience. I have carried Albany Public Library books over a good part of the world and will confess that I still find enjoyment in traveling Economy Class as long as I have enough reading material with me.
Our new public library is one of the best deals I have seen in my professional life. We were able to move from a 17,000-sq.-ft. facility to a building with more than 42,000 sq. ft. without raising anyone’s taxes. As the new building comes off the tax rolls, our old library replaces it as a new medical clinic. No green fields were defiled, and no buildings were demolished as a part of this project. Both the old and new library buildings will be more energy efficient than they were in the past. No new infrastructure was required to serve the building, and it is in a great location close to residential and commercial areas where people congregate.
No matter how good a public project is, it always seems controversy will somehow find it. I don’t know that some spirited debate is a bad thing. Some people still don’t like the color of the building, but I have spoken with many who do. I was not excited when I first saw the color scheme; but now that it’s completed, I think the library is a handsome building. I also know that the controversy probably helped more people become aware of the new library than almost any other form of publicity we could have created. Some adjustment to the green accent color is still a work progress that awaits better weather.
Finally, I would like to recognize the work of the entire library staff for the good work they do every day and the special effort that goes into a move. The best way to reward that effort, and the one I think the staff will appreciate most, is to use the new library and take advantage of all it has to offer. We should all be giddy about that opportunity.