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Library advocates listen, suggest ideas with consultant about expansion

MADISON – Continuing education classes, a coffee bar and gift shop were out-of-the-box ideas for capitalizing on Madison Public Library’s expansion. A cross-section of Madison attended the annual Grits & Gratitude focus group on Nov. 14.

Library consultant Toni Garvey led the dialogue at Grits & Gratitude on Nov. 14. (RECORD PHOTO/GREGG PARKER)
Library consultant Toni Garvey led the dialogue at Grits & Gratitude on Nov. 14. (RECORD PHOTO/GREGG PARKER)

Toni Garvey, library consultant with Providence Associates in Phoenix, Ariz. led the session. Garvey will present her findings at tonight’s public forum at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

“Toni is the ‘world rock star’ of library consultants,” branch manager Sarah Sledge said. “She is extremely knowledgeable in keeping aesthetics we want to provide.”

In the past, libraries “controlled everything within the four walls. We knew what you should read. Then, the library wasn’t the only place to get information. People had options,” Garvey said.

Libraries in the 21-st century are “a ‘third place’ — not work or school nor home but a third place that people want to congregate.” Today’s library users expect comfortable seating for laptop use or reading and flexible multi-use space with defined functionality.

“A space for a three-year-old is not the same as what you would want for a nine-year-old,” Garvey said. The library needs “to invite teenagers in the process.” Ask what they think, and “they will come out in droves,” Garvey said.

Some libraries are incorporating the fine arts. A performance area, like a small auditorium, can accommodate musical ensembles and visual artists, along with traveling art exhibits, authors’ lectures and corporate seminars.

“You have a fabulous outside space at this library,” Garvey said. “The children’s garden is wonderful.”

About 85 percent of Madison residents owns a library card. “Most librarians would sell their souls to have 65 percent,” Garvey said.

Considering usage statistics, Gaylen Pugh said, “Why isn’t the library twice as large? This library needs more general funding in proportion to its usage.”

Other suggestions included more digital downloads, 24-hour checkout of reserved materials, improved visibility and signage, broader collections and free classes for all demographics in continuing education, especially technology.

Madison Public Library’s address is 130 Plaza Blvd. Call 256-461-0046.

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