Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New library building might lack volume - Gazette

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008

While details for the proposed Silver Spring Library project are beginning to take shape —with the library designed to nearly double in size — some residents say the new building as planned won't be big enough to accommodate a growing Silver Spring population.

Library administrators held a public meeting Thursday night at the current library, 8901 Colesville Road, to present the results from three previous programming meetings in which residents suggested which services they'd like to see at the new library. Other meetings to discuss the design and land-use of the 66,000-square-foot site at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton and Bonifant streets are ongoing.

Thursday's meeting, which drew about 30 people, was the final opportunity for public input before a Program of Requirements (POR) would be submitted to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Recommendations call for an increase in collections - from 100,000 volumes in the current library to 160,000 - and a total of 46 personal computers.

"These are the options we are recommending but whether or not they ultimately get included [is uncertain]," said Rita Gale, a public service administrator for Montgomery County Public Libraries. "Because [the recommendations] represent money, when you add space it means extra funds."

A 2,000-square-foot children's room and three rooms for tutoring for children will be recommended, as will 1,500 square feet of the collection space for teens.

A 12-computer lab with specialized software for disability resources also will be recommended accompanying a collection of disability resource materials. A 150-seat public meeting room is also in the POR.

Affordable housing units and possibly a Purple Line station will also be on-site. Retail space to be put in a smaller lobby specifically for Purple Line users, in the form of a printing service or possibly even an art gallery, will be considered as well.

Some residents were concerned that uncertainty with the site would lead to major changes in the size and use of the library, but Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, said it was two separate issues.

"None of those considerations have constrained what they are including," Stith said of the POR. "The configuration of the library will be affected but the size of the library will not be affected."

The new POR will call for about 32,000 square feet of program space. The size of the building will depend on how many stories are planned, but the building is currently projected for 50,000 square feet, said Gregory Lukmire of The Lukmire Partnership, the library's Arlington, Va.-based architect. The current library is about 25,000 square feet and holds about 100,000 volumes in its collection, Gale said.

Even with the substantial size increases from the previous POR, several residents were concerned the library wouldn't be big enough to serve Silver Spring's growing population.

"It's the proportional use of the thing," said Jim Polk, treasurer of the Silver Spring Friends of the Library, referring to the Rockville Library, which is more than 100,000 square feet but has a smaller population surrounding it. "… What we are trying to say is you are ignoring population but you can't because we have tremendous growth."

Gale said population is not used as an indicator for how many people a library will actually serve.

"You're thinking that 88,000 people are going to come and use this library," she said, referring to an estimate of Silver Spring's population.

Stith added that the proximity of the Long Branch Library, located on Garland Avenue about 1.5 miles from the proposed site downtown, also affects how many residents the new library will serve.

In addition to concerns over the library's capacity to serve Silver Spring, resident Pete Pytlowany said the people that use the library most – children and teens – aren't the ones making recommendations at meetings.

"The demographic that comes to these meetings is not the demographic that shows up in the library during the day," he said. "In terms of usage, that should be the way these decisions are made."

The second of three design meetings to discuss the layout of the library and how the site will be used was held Tuesday night and the last design meeting will be 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Long Branch Community Center, 8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring.

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