Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Another example of setting global service standards for local government services (libraries)

Relating to the previous entry... this example is via proposed legislation, not through a planning process and an approved plan.

This week's Current (p. 4, July 11, 2012) reports that DC Councilman Jack Evans has proposed legislation that defines a seven day per week service schedule for the DC Library system.  From the article:

His bill would require the libraries to be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, at an estimated cost of $10 million a year.

Evans said that library hours are an easy target for cuts during budget shortfalls.

"If we put it in law, we would have to fund it, and not play games with library hours.  There's no excuse for the city today not to keep the libraries open," he said.

Also see "Press Release: Expanded Library Hours Put Forward by Jack Evans" from the DC Library Renaissance Project.

Now while this concept is a step forward in terms of setting global metrics-service standards for the provision of open hours at public libraries, at another level it's also an example of a failure to plan,  micromanagement, and how legislating hours exactly in this fashion can be problematic.

E.g., probably the libraries in DC need to be reconceptualized as one of three types: neighborhood; "regional"; and city-wide.

But there isn't an approved master plan for the library system to my knowledge, including a definition of service standards.  (cf. Ohio Library Council, Standards for Public Libraries in Ohio [hours are covered on page 13])

The city-wide library right now is the main Martin Luther King branch (if the city set up its library system like Manhattan, there would also be other special collections not necessarily located at the Main Library, which would be considered city-wide collections, which they call "research collections" such as health, business, or the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture).  "Regional" libraries could be designed to have more capabilities and items than the average "neighborhood" library.

The Main Library and the regional libraries should be open on Sundays, probably not the neighborhood branches.

It's not like DC is so big that people would have a hard time traveling a mile or two to a "regional" library location.

But maybe I'm wrong, and without a planning process, including a needs assessment and evaluation, we'll never know.

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