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How Far We’ve Come—A New Library on the Horizon

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Following several months of deliberations, the Township Facilities Steering Committee recently shared their recommendations for the repurposing of the Township facilities at 520 Virginia Drive and 801/805 Loch Alsh, the existing Township complex. After considering many factors, the Committee made several recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, including relocating the Library to 520 Virginia Drive as was originally envisioned when the building was purchased. See the full recommendation here.

Among my responsibilities to the Steering Committee was to detail the Library’s need for more space. In my blog of December 20, 2017, I shared the vision for a state-of-the-art intergenerational facility where all are welcome, with browsable book and media collections; adaptable learning spaces for quiet individual use or group collaboration; a children’s area that inspires a love of reading, imagination and discovery; and spaces that support lifelong learning through classes, lectures, and special events.

More recently, I researched the Upper Dublin Public Library of 1992 when we first became a township department and had just moved to our home on the township campus from Sandy Run Elementary School. According to an Intelligencer article from Wednesday, February 5, 1992, “the new building with 15,000 square feet, almost double the space of the current facility [at Sandy Run], will provide space for up to 60,000 books and more than triple the seating capacity to 94 chairs. The children’s activity space will increase 100 square feet, while parking spaces will go from 0 to 45.” According to the state annual report, by the end of that first year, residents borrowed 97,905 items; 45,659 people visited the Library; and 544 people attended library programs. Compare that to today’s numbers, and the increase is staggering. In 2017, the UDPL loaned 345,120 items, received 169,540 visitors, and saw 20,972 people at library-sponsored programs. Today’s library shelves are packed with 115,000 items, nearly double the intended capacity according to the article referenced above.

When you consider these statistics as well as our efforts to change and adapt this facility over the last 25 years (consider having to incorporate space for computers for staff and public use, for example, in the late nineties), I hope you’ll agree that we’ve used every inch of the Library as well as we could imagine.

Now we begin to imagine a new library design, flexible enough to continue adapting to the community’s needs and interests over the decades to come. We also know that our current library is cherished and beloved, especially for those who’ve never known the Library to be anywhere else, and there’s a lot about it that we want to replicate or bring with us to our new home.

Many thanks to the 1,260 respondents to our survey last month. We learned or confirmed much about residents’ use of the Library today and what matters most to you. “Connecting children with books and instilling in them a joy of reading” was highly rated as was “serving as a source of reading materials for personal enjoyment” and “serving as an educational institution for lifelong learning.” Thirty-five percent (35%) identified a café as a desirable improvement to the existing library and 28% would like to see more quiet space.

Throughout the results, the Library’s current location was also repeatedly identified as convenient, and that sentiment has not gone unheard. While the Library’s address is changing, convenience will remain a top priority. Already more centrally located in Upper Dublin Township than the current library, 520 Virginia Drive was identified as an ideal new location, just a short distance down Highland Avenue and connected by sidewalk to homes, the township campus and neighboring schools. Entrances, parking, walking paths and transportation are just some of the topics that have been discussed in our efforts to make the new Library even more accessible to all residents. I look forward to sharing further developments as they arise.

It is my intention to provide regular building updates to our 6,000 email recipients and on the Library’s blog. Anyone wishing to receive these messages should sign up for the Library’s eNews.