Friends of the Libraries: Why plan ahead for a library?

I believe we are at a point where we must explain why libraries are more important than potholes.

If we don't, apparently there is no reason to plan for the library services we want to have available.

I can't blame this concept solely on our present City Council. We have had Orange County Public Library branches in Costa Mesa since 1923, long before the city was incorporated.

We should have had a master plan for Costa Mesa's libraries once the city was formed in 1953, but, of course, the city was busy with so many things, and we did have a library.

In 1965, the Mesa Verde Library was built to serve the growing northern part of the city. In 1987, the old Costa Mesa Library building was replaced when it had structural problems. In 2000, the Technology Library was introduced in response to Arroyo Associates Inc.'s Library Services Needs and Delivery Study.

But even then, the council hadn't said, "This is the level of library service we want to have in our city and this is how we plan to get it."

It is time we, as a city, decide this matter and put it in writing. Or as the Unsinkable Molly Brown would have said, "Belly up to the bar, boys!"

A community needs assessment from the Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records lists these questions to explore when determining what library service a community should have:

1. How is the user community changing, such as socioeconomic status, demographics, employment trends and development plans?

2. Who does or does not use the library and why?

3. What additional services or programs might better meet the needs of segments of the community?

4. To what extent are the current library programs and services successful?

5. Are the physical facilities adequate for providing the types of library services needed by the citizens?

6. Which organizations and initiatives in the community would serve as good partners for library projects and programs?

7. What types of materials and information would best help the community as a whole reach its vision?

8. What are the community's expectations regarding the library for the future?

I would like to see Costa Mesa's master library plan do more than list what we need. It should define where that service would be and how we are going to get it.

In her article "The Public Library Building in the 21st Century," Margie Herron writes, "The contemporary public library is the most economically efficient community resource for providing people of all ages and educational levels with ready access to information and knowledge ... Planning for new or expanded library facilities is a major undertaking. It is vital that planning be done with a long-term view of future needs."

Public library buildings appear simple, but are not, she writes. Unlike office or retail buildings, a library must provide a wide variety of services to a clientele representing all age groups and educational levels. The building must be designed to take advantage of present information technology as well as technology expected in the future. It must serve toddlers to older adults, businessmen to students. Each group's needs may require different lighting, noise levels, guidance and access.

"The library must be designed so that one use does not intrude on others," Herron writes.

Our present buildings would have trouble meeting these criteria because they are so small.

Please, let me know your thoughts on this issue by emailing costamesalibr@gmail.com.

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Romance Book Club

A new treat for romance readers, the Romance Book Club will meet at 2 p.m. Sept. 19 in the library at 1855 Park Ave. This month's book is "Simply Perfect" by Mary Balogh.

MARY ELLEN GODDARD produced this column on behalf of the Friends of Costa Mesa Libraries, the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the three Costa Mesa branches of the Orange County Public Libraries.

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