Make Some Noise: Community Envisions a 21st Century Library Open Forum May 12

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Thursday May 07, 2015

What comes to mind when you think about the South Burlington Community Library? What do you enjoy? What would you like to see more or less of? These are some of the questions 52 community residents, business people, and city staff pondered at “Make Some Noise,” the initial forum designed to kick off the library board’s visioning process.

The evening, facilitated by Amy Howlett from the Vermont Department of Libraries, was organized by South Burlington’s Library Director Jennifer Murray along with her steering committee. The committee includes Mark Coel, Lisa Ventriss, Cindy Elcan, and Jake Jurmain. After information is compiled from the April 28 meeting, the steering committee will hold another open forum May 12 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the library. That will be followed by a recommendation to the city council at the June 11 meeting.

Joining in the evening’s conversation on the 28th were avid readers of hardbound books, parents of young children, and high school students. As Murray welcomed the crowd with refreshments from Zachary’s Restaurant, she offered encouraging statistics about South Burlington’s current library; attendance at library programs is up 25 percent this year and book circulation is up 10 percent.

Before Murray handed over the reins to Howlett for the evening, she encouraged participants to “go beyond your expectations and dream a little” about what a library could be. Through participation in the visioning exercise, community members had the opportunity to take a “future forward” stance to exploring quality library experiences.

Howlett had participants break into groups of five or six, but first she gave people some food-for-thought to spark ideas. Howlett presented concepts reflecting an old style library, which included quiet space, no food or drink, plenty of print materials, and a civic presence in the fabric of the town. Newer library concepts included digital collections, small, automated self-checkouts, cafes for socializing, a sense of community, spaces for computers, more programming for teens, art galleries, and digital labs.

Howlett asked individual tables to ponder what functions the South Burlington library should continue to offer. Answers ranged from the bookmobile to arts programming. Many lauded the children’s reading room, but bemoaned the limited space. Complimentary museum passes, e-books, and the great staff were all mentioned as assets as well.
But when groups were asked to consider what new experiences the people of South Burlington might expect from a 21st century library, the ideas began flowing in earnest. One concept included a dedicated kitchen in the library where classes could be taught. The idea of making the library the nucleus of the town and creating an inter-generational space was met with supportive response. Other ideas included color printers for projects, day care or babysitting while parents take a class, expanded hours with more weekend programming, and a tutoring exchange.

After a short break, where people were asked to tour the library and evaluate what they thought needed to be saved and what could be improved, many expressed appreciation for the children’s reading room, but thought more natural light and maybe even a greenhouse would help enliven the library space as a whole.

Do you have a passion for reading? Have ideas for what a future South Burlington library could look like? Come to the open forum May 12 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the library to make your voice heard. Light refreshments will be served and childcare will be provided. You can also find more information on the South Burlington Community Library website ( as well as their Facebook page.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent