This is an excerpt of an article from American Libraries, Sept./Oct. 2013. It was written by Peter Gisolfi, the architect of the vibrant Darien, Connecticut library.
Successful libraries are designed collaboratively...It’s a process that requires listening to every voice with a stake in the outcome and establishing a clear set of goals and paths to meet them. The first step is to form a building committee that represents various constituencies: political representatives of the wider community, the library board of trustees, the professional staff, frequent library users, interested citizens, and donors. All have vital ideas and opinions. The design process involves analyzing the physical and cultural setting for the building, preparing a program of space requirements, establishing clear objectives for the project, and preparing and critiquing a series of alternative design approaches...The collaboration is time-consuming and rigorous. It moves forward, but its iterative nature may slow it down. This is to be expected and is ultimately worthwhile. As the project evolves, the architect, the building committee, and outside constituencies gradually move to a plan that satisfies everyone. This process works. When successful, the library belongs in its physical and cultural settings, reflects the objectives and values of the various constituencies linked to the project, and is integral to the community and the citizens for which it was designed.
The name of this planning committee can vary.
You may choose to call it a library space planning committee, library facility needs committee, feasibility study committee or something else.
Whatever it is called, it should be established according to municipality protocol for establishing city/town committees. It is charged with completing the space planning and schematic design phase of a major library building project.
Roles: The Library Facility Needs Committee (or whatever yours is called) is an ad hoc committee of the board of trustees. It works within the parameters defined by the board and works with the director to achieve goals.
The outline below illustrates the distinction between the various roles:
In order to launch a building project a board of trustees establishes a study committee comprised of interested individuals and library supporters (and even skeptics), community leaders, library staff and local officials. This committee will plant the seeds that, after much hard work, will eventually become an improved library building.
Keep the following in mind when forming your committee:
1. The politics
2. The skills
There's no magic number for how many people should serve on the committee, but it's good to remember that it's a working committee, not a talking committee. A lot of work is involved.
The committee does the legwork that makes it possible for them to make informed recommendations to the library trustees. The trustees have the legal authority to make legal decisions regarding the project.
Committee members will work with the library director to: