Sunday, July 03, 2005

Building a better library

As I mentioned a while ago, plans are afoot to update Walnut Creek’s tiny, and overloaded, library. Thursday saw the first public workshop on the library design: I went along to put my oar in.

First overwhelming impression: design is a long, slow process. Construction probably won’t start until 2008; the new library won’t open until 2010. And the second overwhelming impression: people—or at least, those who turn out to public meetings—are passionate about libraries.

It would seem that, although the City’s chosen an architect, it hasn’t necessarily chosen the design which got the architect the job. They’ve been asked to reformulate the design, based in part on community input. Which is where this meeting comes in: after a brief introduction, we split into small focus groups to discuss priorities for library services and for the site.

On library services, the top priority of every group: collections. Don’t build us a big library with a few books in it—I was ready to bring up Danville as an example, but was beaten to it—we want a lot of books.

On the site, everyone wanted more made of the creek, which runs along the site but which currently has little pedestrian access. Civic Park is one of the few places in downtown where Walnut Creek is actually both visible and natural: for most of downtown, it runs either underground or in concrete.

The site is, however, controversial; a chunk of creekside land, behind the current library, is privately owned and occupied. The City’s currently trying to negotiate with the owners, but—especially given the recent Supreme Court ruling—the spectre of eminent domain hung large over the meeting.

The next workshops are in September, on the conceptual site design, although there’s a couple of council meetings before then which might also prove interesting.