• 16Apr

    Here is a note from constituent Paula Hardin. I appreciate her thoughts and wished to share. There are a few suggestions that I disagree with, but many more with which I concur. I am sharing with her permission.


    As you know, the library is central to my life, even if I was not disabled due to multiple sclerosis, libraries and books have been a constant in my life. I have used ALL the library iterations in Rochester ever since I was a toddler. I can say with certainty that it made me a better person and enriched my life in so many ways that I scarcely know how to describe it.

    It was actually a surprise to that it took me until 1983 to figure out I could and should go to graduate school to get my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Among the several areas of special studies, my classes included archival management, thesaurus construction, and  I also completed the entire separate Museum Studies program, law librarianship (I think the first non-lawyer allowed to do so), and project management from the Business School.
    I have lived and travelled all over the country (all but 3 states) and been a dedicated patron of libraries everywhere I lived. I have been a library tourist, visiting libraries around the world. In what is apparently a really hard thing to do even with advanced notice and preferring of credentials, I was allowed in to the famous Bodelian library and I touched books that existed in 1500 and before; it was a spiritual experience for me.
    Additionally, architecture has been a hobby of mine, and library history an area of special study (I was going to write a book).
    My application of my library studies has been non-traditional. One of my areas of national expertise was on developing and designing digital libraries. Before my multiple sclerosis worsened, I took PhD classes with plans to attend the program to study user interface design. Since I know art as an art major and was a graphic designer for many years, combined with my computer and database expertise, it was a goal I was very sad to have to give up because of my health.
    Now that I have some of my credentials covered to establish my expertise on all things library, this is what my recent research and attendance at library board meetings has led to reassess my support for library expansion downtown and say with absolute certainty that the best choice is BUILD A NEW LIBRARY.
    I wish my health situation would have let me serve on the Library Board because I think I would have been perfect for the post. However, since they do have public comment, I have taken advantage of that to share my research and make suggestions. I have also written directly to Audrey in her capacity as library director about a number of things, and she recently proposed (3-15) one of my ideas I had written her about to the board (without acknowledging my contribution) that was met with great enthusiasm.
    I have asked for but not received any copies or links to the $40,000 plus study that was originally done about 5 years ago or more that concluded that EXPANSION was the best alternative. As you may recall, I have been a supporter of expansion.
    I have changed my mind and even have come to question the validity of the original research and definitely their conclusion! I realized this when I spoke to some other members of the community, random people who were attending my American Sign Language class.
    They were very bitter about the 125 LIVE debacle (including scorn for the name which I think is the widespread opinion of it). Admittedly, most of the arguments made by one woman in particular were, let’s call it not progressive, though she adamantly voiced support for the public library — just had reservations about the many millions of dollars and other factors that indicated she was not a user of the library since she did not know basic functions available.
    What happened when I spoke to her, though, was a sudden awareness that my coming late to the party (due to caregiving for my late mother) meant I had been thinking of the library EXPANSION as if were vetted to be the optimal solution (branches discussion notwithstanding and not worthy of even being discussed as viable to anyone with a clue).
    So I reassessed the reason why so much effort has gone into the obsession with expanding an atrociously awful, outdated, and actually wretched location for a public library.
    The #1 thing that struck me was the prioritization of people dependent on transit to be able to get to the library. As the non-progressive lady pointed out, “Who do you serve?” The absolute truth is that the majority of the library users are NOT transit dependent and use cars for very good reasons.
    For one thing, transit is never going to be free, and never going to be cheap even if subsidized, and is that the best use of money to serve a tiny percentage of users or potential users? If a mom with 3 kids wants to go to the library, that is 4 bus fares in two directions, and possibly requires a transfer and even a short walk. Even if each fare were only $1.00, that costs the family $8.00 to make that visit and a realistic estimate of 1 HOUR to get from home to bus stop to downtown to library.
    What I do not understand, although I suspect the answer is the liberal obsession with serving the disadvantaged over the 99% of main users of the library. I am NOT advocating EXCLUDING the disadvantaged. I am saying do something else to serve that population that might be better, cheaper, and more efficient.
    Like BOOKMOBILES with hotspots and a computer for users without computers or internet (although there is an app for cell phones which many people however poor HAVE TO HAVE to function in contemporary society Jason Chaffetz’s baseless opinion to the contrary.
    I have made that suggestion based on a librarian’s suggestion in the video online during the 2016 Post Bulletin public discussion on the project. She pointed out that the Bookmobile was, essentially, a BRANCH library. So my idea immediately became, what we need instead of branches (that still would require $$$$ transit with all of the time and hassle I mentioned before), we could add one or two bookmobiles.
    I sent Audrey some links to new, energy efficient, bookmobiles. She is busy doing her job and more with the school thing going on and so much else. She doesn’t have time to research and there is no money, and given the inadequacy of the previous OVERPRICED “research” study, there is no money to do it over by someone with a clue. But I have a vested interest in the future of the library and I have the time. And I have a clue.
    In the video, a very astute lady in the audience made some very thoughtful and pointed remarks questioning some of the unspoken assumptions that led to the expansion as the best option.
    I have heard Audrey say many times, as if it were factual, that since a new library would cost the same as the expansion, “it is a wash” therefore she concludes we may as well do the expansion. Sometimes she mentions land cost. There is a phrase for the fundamental problem this belief causes, something like “opportunity cost” meaning that things you could do with a new building warrant consideration and higher weighting.
    No disrespect to Audrey in  ANY OF THIS. She is doing a great job. The library is understaffed, heavily used, and is badly designed. It also serves as a day time homeless shelter which has been a problem of public libraries since at least the 80s. But that’s another problem requiring a solution.
    The cost basis of new versus expansion is falsely framed as the ONLY difference between the two when that is so obviously false that I am astonished that it even took me awhile to question that assumption.
    With a new library, you get NEW from scratch facilities that will last 20 years instead of a patchwork throwing good money after bad.
    New HVAC with all the energy star bells and whistles and new ductwork, local control of air flow and temperatures in meeting rooms, that could perhaps make it possible for me to actually attend a meeting in a conference room there again without nearly having a fatal asthma attack from the lack of fresh air that could filter out heavy scented perfume odors with the door closed.
    It could be a GREEN building, like the Vancouver (B.C. Canada) Public library. It could use locally sourced materials. It could be DESIGNED by someone competent beyond the dozens of AUTOCAD 101 buildings that exist in town.
    I could go on and on with dozens more aspects that do not seem to have been even considered since the choice was to push expansion.
    As you know, there is inadequate dedicated handicapped parking already. People are constantly having to double park to pick up kids, or as has happened to me at least 5 times in the last two months, they sit in the handicapped spots to wait thinking, hey, I’m just going to be here for a little bit, what are the odds someone handicapped will need this space. I have gotten out of my double parked car to ask someone to move their vehicle several times, and let it go many more.
    The space in front of the disabled spots is inadequately painted and just big enough for a good parallel parker to park there, no doubt planning to offer the “oh I didn’t realize it wasn’t a parking place” excuse if busted. I get a ticket for 10 minutes over the 30-minute meter but never once have I seen the NO PARKING space (not that there is a sign) in front of the handicapped space with a ticket. And the people who park there frequently do stay more than a few minutes to just pick up books.
    Another woman I spoke to at the ASL class said she went there to do genealogy because they have a subscription to Ancestry.com and she needs to spend hours there. Well, that means she has to park in the ramps because the meters are 30-minute and 2-hour across the street — leading to constant jaywalking of course, a public safety hazard. This means the public library is not really “free”  — and as I pointed out to the Board members who obviously never gave it a moment’s thought: library employees have to park in the lot at a significant cost of over an estimated $1,000 a year for the privilege of working there.
    I could go more on this, but let’s be realistic: FREE PARKING incorporated under a new library building or a paved lot, or both would enable many more people to use the library without it costing them a day’s budget for food to park there.
    Taking two toddlers and a baby on the bus is never going to be cheap compared to a car. Parking in the garage and dragging the two kids out and making sure they don’t get hit by a car coming in to park while getting a baby out of a car seat and into a stroller, and then going through doors and possibly an elevator ride to get to the skyway, which has a non ADA slope to travel the 1/4 mile (I measured) to the ELEVATOR to go down to the door of the library, and all that just to PICK UP SOME CHILDREN’S BOOKS, and repeat the journey back to the car must surely be an ordeal to much to consider. They might not even make it in the free hour time limit. They certainly don’t have any time for “story hour” or “discovery” under such circumstances.
    How can FREE PARKING all by itself not been a criterion that would sway the decision to a new building? Free for staff and patrons!
    But here’s another idea that the wretches that did the fatally flawed study didn’t address: a new facility could have a DRIVE THROUGH PICKUP WINDOW. Many public libraries have gotten on the ball with this UNIVERSAL DESIGN feature. When I am stuck in my electric wheelchair, I would LOVE to be able to just drive my vehicle through a pickup and BETTER drop off rather than have to get out of the car, travel through snow and ice and rain, just to be able to pick up my books.
    And I am guessing THOUSANDS of other library users would love that as well. Moms and Dads with kids especially! How can that OPPORTUNITY not have been covered in the new v. expansion pros and cons?
    There would be no extra staff required because the design of the building would have to (please let me provide OVERSIGHT!) place the circulation desk and reserves adjacent to the book drop off and pick up. Right now the library spends time and money pulling books off the shelves that people reserve online.
    This includes interlibrary loans and music and videos, all of which are shelved behind the circulation desk and require the staff at the desk to get for you. One lovely drive though and all of that could be managed with existing staff, or possibly fewer depending on other factors if PEOPLE COULD DRIVE THROUGH and pick up reserves.
    One person commented on the chi chi phrase of “discovery” being used by library people to describe the opportunities of browsing and finding other material of interest. Indeed “discovery” is a primary reason I am 100% committed to a central library (this does NOT mean downtown center location).
    People cannot and should not be forced to park and shuffle kids or get out a wheelchair, or walk when they are too fatigued to do so under the guise that a drive through pickup for reserves would PREVENT “discovery” because these people are NOT THERE TO BROWSE. They did their browsing ONLINE that’s why they did the reserves! When they have time and they think parking will be available or free, they can take all the time they want for “discovery” but that is NOT an acceptable argument to oppose a DRIVE THOUGH PICK UP WINDOW.
    Interlibrary loans actually COST THE LIBRARY $10 per book to obtain. Yet, all too often they are never picked up. Why? MAYBE THE PERSON REQUESTING COULDN’T FIND PARKING within the 5 day limit. (Much more education needs to be done to teach people how to use the library and what services are offered. For example, if you can’t make the pick up deadline, you can call and ask for a few days more until you can get there.)
    One other idea I had was a way to make the pulling of reserves and return shelving faster, easier, and more efficient. A book elevator. These are like dumbwaiters, only for books. If you have a book elevator right by drop off bins and reserve shelves, you can easily sort fiction from nonfiction for example, and send the books up to the appropriate floor. A new building with this in mind could plan for this and layout the shelving to match what a book elevator could provide as a first level sorting, reducing the number of mass book sorting and carting considerably.
    They may have a staff use elevator, I don’t know, but the existing elevator is PAINFULLY DECREPIT and ugly and small. I doubt I could fit in there with my future electric wheelchair that will have to tilt back to take pressure off my spine and my left leg has to be stretched outward because of arthritis in my hip.
    Imagine how nice and fun it would be to do a GLASS ELEVATOR so people could see outside and inside. It could even be lit with changing color LED artwork type enhancements that would clearly show from a distance if the library were open or not. There is a parking garage in Ohio like this. I have pictures. It is cool. Also one in Reno. I also have pictures.
    So another question you have to ask yourself is, DID THE ORIGINAL STUDY even consider actually disabled people at all? The landscape designer for DMC admitted she had never considered what her landscape designs would be like from a wheelchair perspective (or a child or a short person either I am guessing).
    It is one thing to have some numbers provided by decades old legislation, but the INTENT of the ADA is UNIVERSAL DESIGN. For example, if you went for a flat pave lot, AND IT SNOWED, a disabled person in a wheelchair would have trouble clearing the snow from their car even if they were only in the library a short time. So might an elderly person, or a mom dealing with kids. MAYBE A PAVED LOT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA, or maybe something along the lines of a carport style that would keep cars clean and provide a COVERED WALKWAY into the library as well.
    The space above could either be library space, maybe an auditorium since that is clearly lusted after by all concerned for the round bit of the existing library (but a new one could have it too). Or a green area with benches to sit in and enjoy some plantings and park benches on nice days. Of course, you could do pocket park on the ground level as well. The Cleveland Public library has a lovely little urban spot with a Maya Lin sculpture in it as well as other book themed statues and benches.
    Oh the possibilities of a new library make my heart soar! Why oh why did no one on the study even look at these opportunities?
    As I note in my email to Audrey and my public statement to the board last week (attached), they have not done any serious consideration of all the possible options for funding the library out there.
    Named rooms for big donors, such as the Mayo auditorium perhaps? How about the IBM computer lab including computers and other tech contributions? How about BROADBAND donated by Charter/Spectrum? There are some funds available for bricks and mortar sometime through the Minnesota State Library programs funded by the IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services), though this program is going to be axed in the current budget, but there might be time and enough money to get in for the last bit.
    Audrey never even asked DMC for funds. We all know, and the lady I spoke to even said, it make sense to put a HOTEL right across from the convention center. Surely that location is worth millions to a hotel developer, connected by skyways and right across from it!
    I have lots more ideas on funding, and have been a successful grant writer in the past as well as a reviewer for IMLS grants.
    Like the bookmobile expansion to bring the library to the people instead of bricks and mortar inflexible and expensive options on many levels, I have lots of ideas of how the library could serve the visitors without them having to have a car to get there. One could be that the hotels would offer their already existing shuttles to do a daily run to the new library location if people requested it. No need, no run. No extra cost to the library or the city to provide access. Another amenity for hotels to offer to give them a competitive edge using vehicles that otherwise would simply be parked.
    The library has a large room filled with books that did not sell at the Friends bookshop and aren’t suitable or needed for the collection. Kind of like the Little Free Libraries popping up, maybe a city ordinance would be required, but why not just OFFER THE BOOKS TO LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES? Much better than pulping. I have a picture of a great bus stop that has book shelves with library books on them to read while you wait, and/or take with you on the ride. Then you could just put it back at another BUS STOP LIBRARY. Since the books would be destroyed anyway (is that a cost or a gain for the library?) why not let the people who paid for them originally enjoy them?
    Please support me in this cause to change from supporting expansion of the library to a new library building. Hopefully on the 9 acres of land the City has where the old Think bank building was. This would allow for some much needed green space rather than the horrendous concrete pile that is the library now, including the lining of the river.
    OH and another thing the original study had as a MAJOR FAIL was the so-called “wash” of the differences did not include THE UTTER MADNESS OF TRYING TO KEEP A PUBLIC LIBRARY OPEN WHILE UNDER MASSIVE RECONSTRUCTION AND REPLACEMENT OF HVAC and more.
    Drive through pick up – opportunity lost
    Free parking – opportunity lost
    Green building – opportunity lost (Platinum LEED!)
    Serving the needs of the 99% of users – opportunity lost
    Integrating green space, park benches, nature programs – opportunity lost
    Serving the needs of the disabled and elderly and families – opportunity lost
    Bookmobile expansion to serve unmet needs – opportunity lost
    Enhanced contemporary functionality  (book elevator, rolling stacks) – opportunity lost
    NAME ARCHITECT for NOTABLE AWARD WINNING BUILDING to enhance the city generally – opportunity lost
    Combine with Children’s museum, Disabled MSers housing, and possible community center — even arts center — that won’t happen at the Armory – opportunity lost
    Kiss transit dollars goodbye — not a realistic basis for planning the best LIBRARY TO MEET THE PUBLIC NEEDS
    I will stop now, but as you might suspect, I have a lot more research, ideas, and I think I could find a way to make a new library building of 180,000 square feet at the City owned land be possible for LESS THAN 55 million dollars. Google Cedar Rapids, Iowa Public Library to see a nice new building.

    Read more…


  • 15Sep

    I promised to answer any follow up questions from the neighborhood forum last week. I did get some so here are additional answers.

    Do you favor expanding the public library?


    Do you believe that Soldier’s Field is an appropriate location for a new library?

    Not without infrastructure to make it more accessible by walk, bike, transit, car & broadband. With infrastructure I could support.

    Would you prefer expanding the current location or some other option?

    I support whatever best provides critical library service to our community.

    When reviewing a building for inclusion on a list of protected buildings for heritage preservation protected by City government, should a property owner be able to remove his building from being included on a list and opt out (assuming the building is in satisfactory condition)?

    No, a building is either historic or it is not. There should be a fair process to be delisted for valid & verifiable reasons.

    Should any Rochester resident be able to nominate a building for a heritage preservation ordinance and protection, even if he/she does not own that building?


    In the nomination of buildings for a heritage preservation list, should a fee be charged be charged by the City to an owner or a non-owner to nominate a buildings (Pay to Play)?

    Maybe not, I previously suggested a fee to prevent games, but it has been pointed out that this might be a solution in search of a problem. I’m open. I disagree that the cost of providing a service is pay to play.

    Should a fee charged to someone, either owner or non-owner, who wants to appeal a decision of the Heritage Preservation Commission to the City Council?

    See the previous answer.

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  • 15Feb

    Our City Charter recognizes 3 needs that are so critical to our community that it “constitutionally” created boards to over see them. They are Public Utilities, Parks, and the Library. The library remains critical to our community and usage continues to surge every single year. 20 years ago the library was built too small as a result of cost saving measures. Now we have a chance to address it. Unlike other levels of government we actually have to pay for the things we get, as such there will be a cost associated with the expansion. As always, I subscribe to the belief that we do it right the first time, and this means a significant investment. Read more…

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  • 10Oct

    As you know the city council banned E-cigs in places where smoking is banned here is my 2 cents.  Transparency is good, right?

    1) I don’t know if second hand “smoke” is an issue with E-cigs.  It is up to manufactures to show their product safe through peer reviewed and published scientific studies.  My suspicion is that second hand “smoke” is not an issue but I am not smart enough to make that call.  Despite claims otherwise the jury is still out.  Second hand smoke is not a reason to ban the devices in my opinion.

    2) E-cigs are a drug delivery device (fact) and currently lack sufficient regulation and oversight in my opinion.

    3) E-cigs are being abused by middle schoolers and high schoolers and that is an issue (fact).  One of the biggest successes of smoking bans is the de-normalization of the behavior.  For all the reasons that de-normalizing smoking at the Library, Peace Plaza, Mayo Campus, Riverside Concerts, and Bus Shelters is good policy, so is this.

    4) I believe the E-cig products are being marketed to children.  Look no further that the setup at Apache Mall right in front of Gymboree.  Butterscotch and other flavors are aimed at kids in the same way that Joe Camel was.  Opinion. The Apache Mall should get its act together because this is pretty sad.  And by the way, I got a demonstration of the product at the mall and later found out that was against mall policy. Fact

    5) E-cigs have helped some people to quit smoking.  That is fact.  I doubt however that scientific studies will show that as a quit aid it will rise to the level of effectiveness to be prescribed as such.  Why do I doubt this? Because Dr. Richard Hurt of the Mayo Nicotine Research Center doubts it.  Time and scientific review will tell. Opinion

    6) I do think that E-cigs should be legal, but controlled, regulated, and taxed like other drugs.

    420) I do not think banning the product or bans in general are productive.  The war on drugs is one of the biggest failures in American history.  We spent a trillion dollars to not change drug use stats and make cartels more dangerous and violent.  We have destroyed lives and done so in a way that disproportionately impacts minorities, especially African Americans.  Not only do I think E-cigs should not be banned, I think some things that are banned should be legalized, regulated, and taxed.  Regulation and taxes get better results than bans.  Simply put you can not legislate against peoples appetites.

    I know some don’t agree with this policy so if you want to get rid of all 7 of us on the council, the mayor, and then the library staff, you can do that through the election process.  I stand by my vote.

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  • 01May

    What an amazing video! People prioritizing a library over taxes! Just remember our library lost a battle against the tea party. But I continue the fight.

    I don’t want Rochester to ever forget that we have the busiest library in the state of Minnesota. The city council asked for an expansion to be part of our sales tax proposal only to have Rep. Greg Davids and the Tea Party legislators remove it, against the will of Rochester at the state level. We will have fixed this injustice when we restore the funding for this needed and worthy project.

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  • 18Sep

    Did you know that Rochester’s Public Library is the busiest in the state of Minnesota?  Did you know that our Bookmobile by itself would be the 4th busiest library in Southeastern Minnesota?

    Times are challenging right now yet the city council just purchased a new $385,000 Bookmobile (this included all consulting, design, travel, etc.). This does have all the bells and whistles.  The drive train is Hybrid electric / clean diesel, some power is generated by a solar array.  With the batteries and solar, thousands of hours of idling will be avoided.  Everything on the vehicle is heavy duty to ensure a 20 year life.

    Was this a good investment?

    I think so, but lets study the issue.

    Our old bookmobile was pretty well shot, with heavy usage comes heavy abuse.  Most library systems that approach the size of the Rochester Public Library begin to open new locations.  The problem is that in tough times they are hard to close.  Further; population and demographics can change significantly over time.  With the Bookmobile we get 77 other locations, admittedly with more limited service.  Because we are a AAA rated city we can bond at about 3% right now.  This means that if we amortized the vehicle cost over its life it cost us less than $26,000 per year.  Basically we get 77 library locations in a state of the art, efficient vehicle for less than the cost of a custodian at a branch location.  The vehicle also gives us the ability to target areas that need access to materials the most, even if those areas change.

    In my opinion staff at the Rochester Public Library did a great job in looking out for the best interests of the city.  What do you think?

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  • 03May

    Work on the Rochester-Olmsted Bicycle Master Plan 2011 is in full swing. Read more…

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  • 22Feb


    I can not understand way the Rochester city library would need two full time maintenance people, with so few amenities, it is not very well spent dollars. Read more…

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  • 04Dec

    The Sales tax committee issued their final report.  I think they did a pretty good job but also came to some pretty head scratching solutions.  You can see their report here. Read more…

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  • 30Nov

    This was the second of my 2 half day sessions today and focused on strategic partnerships.  Again I met some great civic leaders from around the country.  This session actually focused quite a bit on networking and communicating in your community. Read more…

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