Sunday, August 31, 2008

Adults, teens discuss wish list for library - Gazette

Public hearings begin for new Silver Spring facility

by Amber Parcher | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

From a spacious teen center to more computers and an expanded literature and foreign language section, adults and teens in Silver Spring have a lot to say about what they want in their new library.

They shared their ideas Saturday with library and county officials in two meetings that were the first steps in deciding what should be included in the new library. There will be three more public design meetings in September and October.

The proposed library would be at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton and Bonifant streets. The 66,000-square-foot site will most likely feature the multi-story library, affordable housing units and a station for the Purple Line, which is slated to run through the property.

But the project, which would improve the oldest and second-smallest library in the county and is 10 years in the making, is still fairly uncertain, said Rita Gale, one of the library's public services administrator.

Officials do not know the orientation of the library, the site plan or what will be included in the library itself.

What is certain is the county has acquired all of the land at the new site for more than $5 million, said Gary Stith, the director of the Silver Spring Regional Center.

"Square foot by square foot, this is the most expensive site the county's ever acquired," Stith said.

The new library will most likely be two stories and, at 38,400 square feet, more than double the size of the old one, Gale said. The project will be funded through the Capitol Improvements Program. Gale said she couldn't estimate cost until more definitive plans are approved.

At the meeting Saturday, about 50 community members cited concerns that the Purple Line, which will most likely run through the property, would take over the site.

"It would clobber it," said Jim Polk, of the Silver Spring Friends of the Library.

But Gale and Stith stressed the library would be the focus.

Almost everyone at the meeting agreed the focus in the library should be art. Silver Spring is a designated arts and entertainment district and the library should be "a cultural destination," said Jose Dominguez, the director of the Silver Spring nonprofit arts center Pyramid Atlantic.

"Folks come to see Montgomery County's extensive arts collection," he said. The library could display local art, he and others suggested.

What the library doesn't have enough of is literature, both nonfiction and international, many people at the meeting said.

Silver Spring resident Jay Latman said if he wants a book, he almost always has to order it online through another library because the Silver Spring Library won't have it.

Another common theme was the need for more computers — both catalog computers and regular-use PCs.

About 15 teenagers in the library's teen public meeting took that suggestion one step further and said they'd like to see both PCs and Macintosh computers in the library. And they should be stocked with high-tech software such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Photoshop, they said.

The teen meeting, which followed the adult meeting, was necessary because teens also use the library and should have a say in the new one, said Darian Unger, the chairman of the Silver Spring Advisory Board.

Stith said he thought some of the teens' ideas were more interesting and specific than the adults', such as recommending the expansion of the foreign literature collection to include Japanese and Latin, and having historical reference films.

Almost all of the teens said they use the library on a regular basis, either to hang out with friends or to do school work, and they were in agreement with the idea of a separate teen room.

"It could be a place where you could meet your friends, to stay out of trouble," said 18-year-old Katya Hernandez. Hernandez said she uses the library to study but would like to see it become more social.

But Gale broke the bad news to the teens that construction on the new library probably won't start for another three years, pending decisions about the Purple Line and approval from the County Council in December.

Fourteen-year-old Joshua Reckson summed up everyone's thoughts about the prolonged project:

"But we won't be teens anymore," he said.

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