Letter to the Editor:
In the article titled “A New Home for the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library?” from the May 27 edition of the Chester County Press, Barbara Cairns, president of the library board, talks about “…building a library for the 21st century.” If this was the goal then the library’s board needs to understand that city planning in the 21st century is focused on urbanization of suburban and sprawling areas, not promoting and planning for more sprawl.
Relocating an urban institution from a central location in the downtown to a suburban site outside of town is consistent with planning strategies of the 1950s, not the 2000s. The new strategy proposed by the library board is consistent with the way of thinking that caused suburban sprawl in the first place. This “new” strategy is a rerun of the proposal from several years ago to place the new library on a site outside of town on Ways Lane. That proposal met with significant opposition for the same reasons that this new proposal will meet opposition – it is a bad city-planning strategy. It hurts the downtown for the convenience of pursuing simplistic planning solutions. It also favors the township in which it is located; to the detriment of the other townships surrounding the borough that also contribute financially.
To cite reasons such as inadequate parking on the current site as justification for isolating the library from the downtown only reveals the profound lack of creativity on the part of the planning team in solving the complex problems necessary to maintaining a vibrant downtown. Aside from schools, libraries are the most visited public institutions in our cities. This brings significant activity and commerce into our downtown and needs to be encouraged, not fragmented.
Furthermore, if the real goal is to build for the future (21st century), then we need to be mindful of the directions in which libraries are going. While books will never disappear, other media is going to rapidly increase, which will cause more traffic to the library seeking electronic services. The library of the 21st century should be located to serve a more pedestrian public than an auto-oriented suburban population, while at the same time presenting creative parking concepts for those that live outside of a comfortable walking commute.
The creative concept that was presented several years ago, which linked a new proposed library and the YMCA to a central parking structure, and further presented a new entrance into the wonderful Anson Nixon Park, was one such creative idea and would have sparked additional growth in the borough.
If our goal is to build a library for the 21st century, we need to consider the big picture of the urban condition, not just the isolated solution for the library.