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Community provides input for new library

Suffolk Public Library held the first of two community meetings to gather public input regarding the new downtown library Wednesday night at City Hall.

Rather than have a formal meeting, the library held an informal meeting and set up boards with potential options that residents could mark with red or green stickers to show support or disapproval. Library leaders and representatives from Waller, Todd and Sadler Architects and Newman Architects were also at the meeting to answer any questions.

The boards featured technology spaces, creative spaces, history displays, meeting spaces and other options.

“What they are going to do is innovative,” said Newman Architects staff Amy Daniels. “The executive staff is focused on the future.”

The boards featured three different sizes of meeting rooms — small, medium and large — and most of the options had green stickers.

“I want to see meeting rooms. Right now, we have limited places to have a meeting, and we definitely need more meeting spaces,” said resident John Jones.

While plenty of adults had the chance to place stickers on things they want and don’t want, Library Director Clint Rudy made sure to grab some teens from Morgan Memorial Library so they could have a say.

“I like the technology or having a gaming system,” said Jarvell Griffin, 13.

Adding technology is an important part of having an innovative library, and Suffolk Public Library wants flexibility with technology to be a part of the future.

“The key is flexibility. We want to be able to adjust our buildings for whatever comes along,” Rudy said.

“The library needs flexibility for new technologies. They need the ability to shift and support all aspects of innovation,” said Waller, Todd and Sadler Architects Vice President William Schwegler.

By the end of the meeting, the café suggestion had more green than red stickers, but most of the green stickers came from the teens. Other red stickers were peppered across the boards on music performance spaces, teaching kitchens and a self-checkout option.

Whether they loved or hated all the options, everyone agreed that the library would provide immeasurable value to downtown and the rest of the city.

“I think this is going to have a positive impact. The library does so many good things for the community, and it can become a community center,” said Kailee Wolterstorff, who currently works at Morgan Memorial Library.

“This will benefit all of us,” said Library Advisory Board member Gin Staylor. “A new library creates new and exciting space, and it will become more than a library. It will become a gathering place.”

Both Waller, Todd and Sadler Architects and Newman Architects believe building a new library will benefit the community.

“We believe that a public library is the most important institution in a democracy. Libraries are gateways for more information,” said Newman Architect staff Joe Neuther. “You don’t need a reason to go, and it becomes a place to connect with the community.”

After both community meetings, both firms and library executives will meet and settle on a plan to present to City Council in the fall.

There will be another community meeting this Thursday with the library and the architecture firms from 6 to 8 p.m. in the gymnasium at the East Suffolk Recreation Center, 138 S. Sixth St.