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Library seeks public input

Suffolk Public Library will hold two public meetings to get community input about a new downtown library next week.

The library is holding the meetings in partnership with Waller, Todd and Sadler Architects and Newman Architects. Along with the meetings, there is a community survey for citizens to take.

“A new library will be a way to attract even more people to visit our libraries, utilize our resources and services and gain opportunities for community engagement,” Director of Libraries Clint Rudy said. “It will also allow my creative and innovative staff to provide even more community responsive events, classes and interactions throughout the community.”

City Council recently approved a new downtown master plan that includes a new library square.

The proposed library square would encompass where Morgan Memorial Library currently sits across from City Hall. The plans and renderings included a multi-building structure, with the main library anchored in the center.

Benchmark Planning proposed three different options for the library square with three separate focuses — a focus on education, a focus on small business and a focus on living. All of these would leverage additional development and partnerships surrounding the area.

Benchmark showed council a plan that would be a “library of the future.”

With a focus on education, Benchmark suggests having a magnet school, a museum, a technical school or community college.

The other two options — small business and living — featured additional buildings focused on shared workspaces or residential opportunities.

“The new library is a core part of the recently approved Downtown Plan, and we want it to serve as a destination as well as helping to continue the redevelopment and expansion of the area,” Rudy said. “We want a new building to continue our efforts as a community learning hub that facilitates idea generation and connects people to each other and their community.”

Having a new library will help continue the growth of Suffolk Public Libraries, Rudy said.

“We are definitely growing and expanding, especially with the popularity of our classes and events. Attendance has doubled over the past five years for these events and classes, which are held at all three locations and throughout the community,” Rudy said.

The library measures attendance during the fiscal year. During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the library saw 183,208 visits between all three locations, and they estimate the number will only grow when they tabulate the numbers for the fiscal year that just ended. Rudy estimates approximately 190,000 visits.

The library has always involved the community when it comes to the operation of its facilities, and they believe that it has helped the library grow to where it is today.

“During our community conversations in different parts of the city, we learned that people want to have a variety of diverse educational and recreational opportunities while also having a way to meet and talk with their neighbors and other people in the community,” Rudy said. “The Suffolk Public Library is an organization that is ‘turned outward,’ which means that everything we do is based on community needs and input and guided by our mission to create an informed, enlightened and thriving community where all can achieve their highest potential.”

A new library will offer more diverse services to the community, and Rudy believes that the need for a “library of the future” will continue to grow.

“We see this as a continuing need, and a new library will only magnify our growth with additional space and resources for members of the community to meet, gather, learn, grow, share experiences, experiment with technology and other tools and, yes, also use books and other items,” Rudy said.

The community survey can be taken at https://www.suffolkpubliclibrary.com/291/New-Downtown-Library, or a hard copy can be picked up at all three locations.

The first meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. July 11 in City Council Chambers, 442 W. Washington St., and the second meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. July 12 in the gymnasium at the East Suffolk Recreation Center, 138 S. Sixth St.