The Lincoln City Library staff and its consultants want library users to:
* Put on their proverbial thinking caps.
* Get their inventive juices flowing.
* Let their imaginations take flight.
And help them put together a plan for the city’s future central library, something that is uniquely Lincoln and will serve residents for decades to come.
One Colorado library system has created studio space for local artists in each library branch, which it rents at a reasonable price in exchange for the artists doing workshops or teaching classes. Library guests can come and learn how to paint and even have their artwork exhibited, said Brad Waters, a consultant with Godfrey's Associates.
Many libraries have places where retired executives mentor people who are looking to start a business. A library can afford resources that an individual can’t, like certain databases, Waters said.
Consultants from Godfrey’s Associates will talk with Lincoln residents about libraries and local ideas for a new downtown library at two town hall meetings next week.
Pat Leach, library director, will hold five additional community meetings in late February and early March.
“We want to know what makes Lincoln unique and what people want to see in a new building,” said Waters about the town halls and community meetings.
The consultants will use the input they get from meetings in Lincoln to create a building program document, which provides information on what should be in a new central library, explained Leach.
It is not an architectural plan, but a detailed document that tells how much space might be needed for specific areas. It will include details like the number and kinds of tables and chairs, the number of books and computers.
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These plans will incorporate what the consultants and library staff hear from local people, Leach said.
That document, after approval from the library board, will be used to raise money, through private funds and perhaps a voter-approved bond, for a new central library.
It will include an estimated cost for a new central library, but will not be specific to any site, Leach said.
The consultants will talk with people about libraries in general, will have pictures showing what libraries in other cities are like and ask for ideas about what needs to be in a central library in Lincoln, Leach said.
Libraries have become true community centers, places where people come together and exchange ideas as much as they are a place to come and read, Waters said.
It is third place to spend time, behind home and work, he said.
"Some people think the third place is a Starbucks or a bookstore. But a lot of people go to the library," he said.
"One of the things we preach is that the opportunity to build a central library is very rare. It comes along once or twice a century," he said.
"We want to take care and be thoughtful in design."
A new downtown library, to replace Bennett Martin, 136 S. 14th St., at a potential cost of $50 million, has drawn some criticism.
The Lincoln Independent Business Association has opposed using the nearby city-owned Pershing Center site for a new library. There has been no decision made to locate a library at that downtown site. Pershing Center was closed in August 2014 when Pinnacle Bank Arena opened.
LIBA also has concerns about the amount of city debt.
The library board is paying Dallas-based library consultants Godfrey's Associates up to $55,000, in private funds, for its work on the building program. The firm is partnering locally with HDR Inc., according to Leach.