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Rochester’s Central Library finds itself at a crossroads. The library has been studying how to move forward in the digital age. The end result may be a consolidation of space and a very different experience for users.

Rundel Library opened in 1936. The Bausch and Lomb addition was added in the mid-90s, right before Google allowed people to carry around libraries in their pockets. Because of the different needs of patrons and funding issues, more than 71 full and part-time jobs have been axed since 1999. The library operates at the minimum required by state law – 55 hours a week.

The city has put out a request for proposals for a consultant to develop a Master Plan for space needs at the library. Here’s what is says:

The plan should allow for improved facility efficiency and use, desired enhancements to patron services as well as consolidation of public service access and staffing points throughout the building. Central Library facilities shall support the shift from a collection-based to a learning-based library.

Over the past year and a half, the library has been studying on its own how to best use space and resources. There’s an extensive website with notes on the progress. Here’s an excerpt from what the library discovered:

“The Boards will need to consider whether Central will shift from acting primarily as a reference and research library and move towards developing a more popular and less specialized collection, or develop a hybrid of the two types of services.


…while the Central Children’s Center is often the least used area of the library on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis, it is the department that draws the largest crowds for special events and elicits the greatest emotional response from and personal connection to patrons.”

The library has also studied customer service issues, including clunky computers, lack of enforcement of computer time, the large numbers of homeless people who use the bathrooms and parking.

The library is still an incredible resource used by many people. It’s a major hub for people needing Internet access. But it may not need the two large buildings it currently occupies. This month, city council will consider a proposal to move the Bureau of Youth Services and the Office of Employment Opportunities into the library. It could be a sign of things to come.

Links of the Day:

– This is disastrous, if true. The Wall Street Journal reports bids for Kodak’s patents are coming in around $500 million, far less than the company needs to survive.

– The Strathallan is undergoing a major overhaul. There will be a pool, high-end restaurant and rooftop space.

– Wegmans and the Rochester City School District are pretty cozy, the Democrat and Chronicle reports. That could provide another clue about the hiring of Patty Malgieri as the superintendent’s Chief of Staff. She had been head of Wegmans-funded Hillside Work Scholarship Connection.

– Destiny USA isn’t much of a destiny, retail experts find. There are vacant stores and stores you can find elsewhere.

– If you die, Google is a nice place to work.

6 Responses to Central Library at Crossroads

  1. I never could warm up to the new library. My first job was downtown, and I spent every lunch hour at the old Rundel. It was as comfortable as a pair of bedroom slippers.

  2. All the more modern services (i.e., except just lending books) the library provides can be best done in the new building. As a modern building, it’s also cheaper to heat and light.

    They should look at the option of consolidating the library into that building, and converting the Rundell building into a history center. That would include offices, display, collection, and public presentation space for the Rochester Historical Society. Also, a consolidated historic research/geneological research area with combined access to both the library’s local history collection and the historical society’s research library. Some of this may have been done already after the historical society moved from its East Ave. HQ.

    There should be enough space in Rundell for all this, as well as enough for a downtown visitors center. The building could be a meeting place for daily downtown tours (as we do here in Buffalo), and could also include access into the subway tunnel space for regular tours of the subway tunnel and Broad Street aqueduct. Such a tour would be a major attractor to downtown — it’s silly to have such a fascinating space & historic resource right under people’s feet and not do the minimal amount of cleanup and access control that would allow it to be open for daily tours and even rented out for occasional events.

  3. Perfection of planning is a symptom of decay. During a period of exciting discovery or progress, there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters. The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. — C. Northcote Parkinson – one of his lesser known Parkinson’s Laws

    also most known for his :

    Observation that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” and that a sufficiently large bureaucracy will generate enough internal work to keep itself ‘busy’ and so justify its continued existence without commensurate output. Proposed in 1955 in jest by the UK political analyst and historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1909-93) while criticizing the British Admiralty (which was growing bigger while the number of sailors and ships under its care was going down). It is quoted more as a keen insight into the functioning of large organizations than as an empirical reality.

    When libraries scrap the computer corals and let you take tablets home with you or give you one to use while visiting, you’ll know3 they’re catching up with the times.

  4. Homeless people need bathrooms and a place to go to why not a safe place with books and computers like throw library?

    • August 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm Rachel responds:

      Of course they do, but is that the function of a library? What impact is their heavy use having on other patrons and the facility itself? Downtown has a sore lack of public facilities since the closing of Midtown and Sibley was made not open to the public.

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