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TELL US: What Should Manchester Do About Its Libraries?

Here's your chance to sound off on what, if anything, you think should be done to improve the town's libraries.

Manchester voters rejected a $12.5 million referendum to upgrade and expand the Mary Cheney Library last November. 

Since, there has been confusion and uncertainty in town about the future of Manchester's library system, one of the most utilized in all the state. 

Some in town say that due to Manchester's size, and the popularity of its two current libraries, the town needs a modern, up-to-date library, while others point out the dwindling circulation of books and magazines in favor of the Internet and eReaders. 

Even the Board of Directors seem unsure about what to do with the issue currently, discussing it recently but coming to no consensus. 

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But Manchester Patch wants to hear your ideas? Does Manchester need to upgrade its library system? And, if so, how? Or are the town's current libraries more than adequate for residents needs? 

Joseph Hachey January 27, 2013 at 01:54 PM
Yes, we need a quality Library but should not rush into a "solution." The middle of our historic Park is not the right place for a major Library facility. We need a new and objective Committee. We do not need an expensive "Study." We have plenty of brains and talent among Manchester citizens. Don't listen to the people who devised that recent failed Plan. Get new Town Staff and Community volunteers to spearhead a new Study. Ignore the temptation to do anything that gets this problem off the table. Give this subject some real thought. This Recession lingers. The cost remains an issue. I see a 1-2 year time frame before we consider bonding the high quality facility this Community needs.
Deb Cassidy January 27, 2013 at 02:39 PM
I'm not sure what the solution is, but I know that whenever I want to go to the library, the parking lot is full. If circulation is down, usage of the other services remains high. The staff is top-notch at both locations. Events and book clubs remain a big draw. We definitely need a new library, at the very least because they are not in compliance with handicap laws.
Bettylou Sandy January 27, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Nathan Hale School could be converted into a combination major library and community center. It would still be in the downtown area and in a neighborhood that needs it most. The money planned for the library could be used for the heating system, upgrades to the space that also includes good parking and grounds.
Richard W. Fitzgerald January 27, 2013 at 04:22 PM
There definitely needs to be an expansion of the Town Library and there needs to be consensus among the the supporters of whether to renovate the existing structure or move to another location. As a retired public library director, I have been involved in the design and construction of other public library facilities. Manchester now needs to build upon the strong base of support for library expansion. Public libraries are more important than ever to both Manchester's and other communities intellectual and information needs both now and well into the future.
Eric Shun January 27, 2013 at 05:51 PM
The library should be upgraded with a combination of Internet tables. This way people coming in to use the library would be able to have access to the Internet and hardcover books at the same time. To be able to cross reference 21st century technology with hardcopy would be a fantastic tool. You would just have to filter out the web service to eliminate gaming and the improper uses.
Kathleen Grover January 27, 2013 at 06:54 PM
I love the library where it is, and strongly supported the bond issue. However, if there is no realistic expectation of using the small part of the land proposed under the issue, I suggest the following: a. Convert the current library into an accessible Probate Court; the entrance is already accessible, and if all public spaces were on the ground floor, no additional conversion would be necessary. Continue to have the Howroyd room useable as a community meeting space, much like Whiton has the auditorium. b. Use the existing Probate Court building as file and records storage; maintain the existing courtroom and allow the various mock trial teams in the area schools to use it for practice. Or, if accessibility and maintenance are issues, turn it over to the Historical Society. c. Acquire the existing building where Arthur's Drug used to be on Main Street; it has plumbing and roofing problems and should be demolished. Build a new state of the art library that can work with the school system and the MCC expansion onto Main Street. With the large parking lot off Forest Street, parking shouldn't be an issue. d. Work with the downtown association to help the businesses in the existing building on Main relocate further up Main into empty spaces now available.
laurie green January 27, 2013 at 07:12 PM
There is definately a need for some improvement in the library. Repairing the existing facility is a must for sure. Instead of adding to it taking over an empty location with ample parking would be a good idea or building on within the new construction in the parade area would be a good idea. Thank you for considering my comments. Laurie Green
laurie green January 27, 2013 at 07:14 PM
That sounds like an interesting solution
Kim Pedneault January 27, 2013 at 10:11 PM
I supported the library bond issue. I think we need to survey residents and find why it was voted down. Was it a $ issue, encroachment on the park issue, or something else. Only then can we move forward. If it was taking .08% of the park that had people saying no, then lets think about building up or going down underground for parking. If it is a $ issue then perhaps it would be more cost effective to use Nathan Hale. if the current building is not used perhaps, as has been suggested the Lutz may be interested as they are outgrowing their space. I would hate to see the building sit idle. I definitely feel strong about keeping adult and children services together under 1 roof and not using the former Parkade for a new library. I would vote for renovating and not for any new construction.
Geoffrey King January 27, 2013 at 11:52 PM
The Mary Cheney building has number of problems which limit the services the library can offer and any solutions that do not involve a substantial addition would actually reduce the space available for books and services. It is not likely, given the recent referendum, that there will be an expansion of the Mary Cheney. The Mary Cheney is not handicapped accessible - structural changes are required which would be expensive and reduce the space for the book collection Parking can not be expanded on-site and is a continuing problem The mechanical systems are, in some cases 50 years old and need to be replaced. The public facilities are poor - there is one bathroom which serves both men and women. There is inadequate space for public computers There is no quiet study area or reading area There is no area for teens There is inadequate programming space The electrical systems do not support electronic devices It would be wonderful to keep the library downtown but it will require building new or renovating an existing building and abandoning the Mary Cheney as a library. The Board of Directors should establish a broad based committee to examine these issues and look at all the options.
Joel Mrosek January 28, 2013 at 10:39 AM
The first things that should be done are to publish a quantifiable mission statement and demonstrate the need for expansion. The mission statement should explain if it is being changed from historic statements and, if so, why. A vague statement of "serving the public needs for media access" is meaningless. It needs to be specific so voters can believe the library commission is serious and thoughtful. Secondly, the objectives should be defined in terms of space requirements. I believe that some people wonder why the library board should be entrusted with more money when the building has been so grossly neglected and ADA improvements have been ignored for over twenty years. Further, that with the increased popularity of electronic media and corresponding decline in print media why more space is needed. One only needs to look at the lack of books in the reference room and the plethora of computers. Lastly, the problem of vagrancy needs to be addressed. If it can't be legally and politically be addressed, the library should be moved from the Mary Cheney building and that building be used for another purpose than can limit access. Show the vision and demonstate the need.
Susan Barlow January 28, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Manchester's zoning regulations require a certain number of off-street parking spaces for each square foot of building, and that number depends on the activities in the bulding -- pizza place, movie theater or shoe store. If these zoning regs are sensible, then any library improvements need to follow them. And that means that a busy library with kids' programs and book clubs needs to have parking and bathrooms. A new committee needs to look at the town's needs and the town's resources and brainstorm many ideas, then choose a direction for the long-term good of the community. That $12.5 million plan was a stop-gap measure without adequate parking. I would favor continued use of our two libraries as branches, and consider a third facility to hold programs, such as book talks and senior programs. Any new or renovated existing buildings need to have lots of parking and be near bike routes and public transportation. The Town should immediately consider a book drop to ease parking congestion.
Geoffrey King January 28, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Just to clarify the Mary Cheney ADA question a little - the building is partially ADA compliant. The stacks where the books are stored for public access are not ADA compliant but the library has pages who can get the books for patrons so the immediate ADA concerns are addressed. Full ADA compliance is a complicated issue in the Mary Cheney Library. The stacks, where the books are kept, are structural not freestanding. They are not wide enough to meet ADA requirements. Replacing them would require extensive structural engineering and construction - it is not just removing old shelving and putting up new shelving. The new stacks would have considerably less room - up to 1/3 less and would still not be accessible without an elevator which would add more expense and further reduce the available space. Although the library is currently grandfathered out of the strictest ADA requirements it is possible that renovations above a certain dollar amount would require full ADA compliance so that renovations not related to the stacks could require extensive and expensive changes anyway. And this is just one of the many issues facing the library. There are many issues and they are all complex and worth examining in detail. These things are not as simple as blaming the town for poor maintenance or saying that people below a certain income level shouldn't benefit from town services.
Kristen Noble Keegan January 28, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Let's start by trying to have a reality-based conversation. For example, take the concept "dwindling circulation of books and magazines in favor of the Internet and eReaders" mentioned above. Saying "dwindling" suggests that the paper format is withering away into a tiny remnant of what it once was. Yet in 2011, the library system recorded 846,845 item checkouts, including about 465,000 books and magazines. Hundreds of thousands of checkouts is NOT a tiny remnant or even a meaningful "dwindle." That's actually UP slightly from 2008 (834,000 total and 430,000 books and magazines). So enough with the fake dwindling already. Our library remains extremely busy and the town's failure to address its real needs has been dragging on for over a decade. The fact that this neglect hasn't substantially impacted borrowing says a lot about how important the library really is. Number sources: Manchester Annual Reports, FY08 and FY11 (http://www.townofmanchester.org/GeneralManager/documents/AnnualReportFY08-09.pdf and http://www.townofmanchester.org/docCenter/AR/FY11_annual_report.pdf).
Lynn Jacobs January 28, 2013 at 02:48 PM
I feel very strongly that the Manchester Public Library needs to have a presence on Main Street. Taking Kathleen Grover’s excellent suggestions one step further, let’s think about putting the library on the present town parking lot, next to the Army Navy Club. That is a deeper lot and would provide the ability to build the library with some green space in front of it, instead of the building entrance being directly on the sidewalk. Then the town could buy the adjacent building and make that into parking spaces. I feel we need to get past the idea that all patrons of the library will have a front row parking space. Manchester is a small city, and as with all cities, parking is at a premium. Across the street, from the above said building, there is plenty of municipal parking. Yes, you may have to walk a bit, and cross Main Street, but there are lights with cross walks, which are always in working condition and perfectly safe if used properly. City dwellers understand that walking is part of their life; perhaps it is time for us to accept that too.
Eugene DeJoannis January 28, 2013 at 03:33 PM
I think Ms Kathleen Grover's proposal is the most interesting idea I have seen to move this process forward in a way that would be acceptable to the Downtown Association and those fighting to preserve the park. Among its other advantages, the town could demonstrate a commitment to a sustainable future by building a net-zero energy library on this site. That is not very difficult to do with a modern low-rise building. I just have one quibble about the last sentence of her item (a). The beautifully equipped Howroyd Room is NOT open to use by the public, and the Library Commission stubbornly refuses to change that policy. Only the library and town officials can use this room. The meeting spaces in the Whiton library are not accessible, are primitive in their appearance and not equipped for modern meeting needs. In addition, the library demands that any group wishing to meet there carry a million dollars in insurance coverage. As a result there are very few publicly owned places in town where groups can hold educational meetings. If the taxpayers are going to be asked to assume the burdens of building a multi-million dollar library, surely they have a right to expect that it be open to use by groups to which they belong, as they are in many other towns.
Edie January 28, 2013 at 03:37 PM
I agree the library needs to stay on Main Street. Especially since it is so close to our schools, and really easy for a lot of people to walk to. The person that had the idea of building in the old drug store lot had a great idea. Moving the library somewhere else like the parkade will make it harder for people to get there especially those without a car and the bus service isn't always that great. And since our schools are so close to the Library and now MCC is also located on Main Street that would be a better idea keeping the library where it is more easly accesable for everyone at the center of town.
janet Heller January 28, 2013 at 06:41 PM
I agree with Kathleen Grover's suggestions c and d...and with Gene DeJoannis's suggestions that the new library at that end of Main St should be a net-zero energy building. It should have meeting spaces for community groups to use and for educational programs, possibly concerts as well. Of course if the municipal parking lot there is full with cars for library patrons, another space will need to be found for activities important to our community held there now such as the summer Farmer's Market.
Rita McParland January 28, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Rita McParland I heard on the financial channel this morning that Barnes andNobles is closing at least one third of their stores. At noon it was announced that their stock has been downgraded. Whom will be next? Is this a sign that ebooks and nooks are causing a financial disaster for printed books? I think we should investigate what other cities are doing regarding new technology. It was mentioned a year ago at the BOD meeting that this is a new trend. Mary Cheney Library may be properly sized going forwrad if you consider that much of the future materials will be electronic. There will always be a need for printed material but it may be on a much smaller scale. Let's be cautious going forward with library plans. These are difficult financial times with no end in sight. We should keep a tight hold on "the purse" until we see what we are buying. Lets not throw caution to the wind. Time is on our side.
Kristen Noble Keegan January 28, 2013 at 09:34 PM
Re Barnes & Noble: First, the actual report says those closings are expect to occur over the next 10 years, not immediately. Second, I expect that decline has more to do with online sales of books than with e-books. The comparative figures I keep seeing suggest that print book sales have NOT declined precipitously - while ebook sales have climbed extremely fast. Hardcover book sales $ actually went UP slightly last year - and ebook sales $ were more than that for the first time. (http://mashable.com/2012/06/17/ebook-hardcover-sales/) In other words, ebooks are, so far, supplementing paper book sales, not supplanting them. B&N stores are competing with Amazon, not with ebooks. Plus, as long as major publishers refuse to sell ebooks to libraries (http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/02/ebooks/a-guide-to-publishers-in-the-library-ebook-market/) the libraries will only have print copies. And, finally, please think for a moment about what you said. Libraries are NOT there to serve ONLY the people who can afford expensive electronic toys for reading, and/or have expensive computers at home. I'm sure you didn't actually mean to do that, but don't assume that "everybody" has, or will soon have, those things.
Geoffrey King January 28, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Rita - you are not considering the ADA question, the 50 year old mechanical systems, lack of bathrooms, no meeting rooms, inadequate space for public computers, no space for teen services, no quiet study areas. The library is more than a book depository although that is certainly an important function.
DebbieH January 29, 2013 at 12:38 AM
I, too, actively supported the library expansion and believe that its presence on Main St. is vital to downtown revitalization efforts. That said, I think it would be a fool's errand to propose another expansion on the current site. One proposal I've heard mentioned on a few occasions is to move the Lutz Museum into the current library building, which is an interesting idea, though I can't imagine the museum staff/board would particularly relish tangling with the "save the park" contingent. I would love to see the old Arthur's Drug building torn down (it's an eyesore and a blight on the downtown) and the property and adjacent lot redeveloped as new state-of-the-art library as was proposed by Kathleen. I would happily support such a plan, even if it meant my property taxes would go up a measly $50/year. That's a fraction of what my family would spend if we had to buy all the books and DVDs we borrow (ebooks too!).
Miriam Byroade January 29, 2013 at 10:38 PM
it's not the *library* that "demands that any group wishing to meet there carry a million dollars in insurance coverage." it's the Town of Manchester
downtoearth January 30, 2013 at 01:59 AM
The referendum failed because people don't like change, it cost too much, it carves into the park, doesn't solve the parking problem, and there are too many creepy people hanging around the park and the library. We need a new location and new construction to build a state of the art library. The MC Library could then be converted into a senior center. Think of the positives. It is centrally located so more seniors could take advantage of the great programs offered. The park could be utilized for exercise. There could be a space for seniors to help students with homework, or to mentor them.
Bob Hetzel January 31, 2013 at 04:55 PM
I would like to ask, what is the town's current debt burden solely as a result of referenda of the past twenty years, and how much could we expect to borrow for referenda in the next twenty years, while we pay off a new thirty million dollar library?
Bob Hetzel February 11, 2013 at 06:51 PM
There is nothing in Center Memorial Park for children except a long curving sidewalk - and the library. No gardens, benches, tables, open space, etc. Let's keep the library for adults, and the park a memorial. At Mary Cheney, make the Howroyd entrance ADA compliant, make the ground floor and the first floor all public space, and put the archives and admin space on the second floor. Build or renovate an indoor, outdoor children's library somewhere in the Broad Street redevelopment area while there's still room for parking...

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