Wirt Library... Too Big? Too Much? Too Expensive?
August 27, 2006
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By: Stephen Kent
If the "Letters to the Editor" of the local Bay City Times are any indication, there are a number of people who voted NO on the recent library operating millage because they think that the Wirt library is too much, too expensive, too over the top.
As anyone familiar with the old central library knows, something had to be done. The old building was a Carnegie Library, built to a rigid formula, that was good for its time but by no means adequate for today's needs. The space had become cramped, the building was not accessible to the disabled, the technology was outdated. An upgrade was not possible to fix these problems because the building just couldn't be stretched to meet the needs.
Many options were evaluated when a new library was proposed. Some suggestions sounded good on the surface but when put to the test they just didn't add up. Some people point to the Pere Marquette Train Depot. Close examination showed many reasons it just wasn't practical. Moving there would not have solved the problems; the building was not much better than the existing library. Other options had their own problems.
The new central library made sense. It still does. Bay County has one of the highest per-capita library use rates in the state. We set records for the number of patrons, the number of library cards, the number of items checked out! A library is needed which can answer today's needs as well as the change society will see over the next 10, 20, 30 years.
Is the library too grand? Hardly. Comparison to any modern library shows that the Wirt Library fits the need. The collection is well displayed and adequate. The technology is well designed and well deployed. Adequate space has been provided for public meetings in both large and small settings. The building is well lit and comfortable for both patrons and staff. It's just right for this community.
So maybe we should question the coffee shop, which seems to have upset a faction of people. Is that going overboard? No. Coffee shops have become a standard feature of the modern library, not to mention up scale bookstores such as Barnes and Nobel. Over twenty new libraries around Michigan have coffee shops. It's expected and accepted.
Bay City should be proud to have the library system that it does and to have the dedicated staff of professionals who run those libraries. These are not political people. They serve the public, they serve US! We owe the entire system a vote of confidence and support.
Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 40 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.
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