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Residents describe what they want in a new downtown Wichita library

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at 11:02 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, June 11, 2014, at 6:32 a.m.

Those sharing their hopes for a new or improved downtown public library in Wichita said Tuesday they want an adaptable, accessible building fitted with updated technology, large public meeting rooms and welcoming spaces for users of every age.

Sue Hansen also wants better placement of the building’s signage – “the (entry) door was definitely hard to find,” she said Tuesday night – and a less industrial look.

“This one kind of looks like urban renewal, 1960s-bomb-shelter concrete. This is the ugliest building in downtown,” she said with a chuckle.

“We need an attractive building with an easy-to-find entrance, good signage ... and it should feel warm, like a place you want to linger.”

Parking and a coffee shop sat atop Harold Payne’s wish list.

“I like to see a lot of parking for a library,” Payne said.

He said he usually visits the downtown branch two days a week and is forced to park in a vacant lot nearby.

“This one is inadequate,” he said of the parking at the current library.

Hansen and Payne were two of up to 100 people who gave their suggestions for a new downtown public library during three public feedback sessions held Tuesday at GLMV Architecture and the Central library branch, 223 S. Main. The meetings were part of a $519,000 charette – or intense weeklong planning process involving the library board, the Wichita City Council and the public – funded by the City Council after it voted 5-2 last month to proceed with planning for a downtown library.

Organizers asked those in attendance to answer questions about what features, community spaces, resources and technology should be in a library and what makes a great public building. They were then asked to choose the three suggestions they would most like to see implemented.

Hundreds of ideas were generated, ranging from ensuring sufficient sunlight streams into the library to providing more comfortable chairs and outside work spaces.

Shirley Wilson, who said she volunteers at the library’s Linwood branch, said up-to-date technology that can be upgraded is among her Top 3 wants.

In the current building, “they just patch-worked in all the computer cords for the computer system, which everybody needs if they don’t have one at home,” Wilson said.

She said she was a high school student when the current library was built.

“In high school, I never dreamed I would be on a computer. ... So I’m looking for flexibility and adaptability so they can keep up with the demand as technology evolves,” she said.

Director of Libraries Cynthia Berner-Harris said she hopes by the close of the charette on Friday that architects will have enough information to begin schematics work and to develop a design for a new downtown library.

As of this week, the City Council has not committed to a new building. The price tag is estimated at around $30 million.

“This is a project that has been in development for 10 years,” Berner-Harris said.

“We’re asking what features the library should have that would not only make you want to come back but also that would make you want to tell you friends and family to come,” she said.

The library’s planning meetings continue through Friday. Upcoming sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m. to noon and 4:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. to noon and 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday and 1 to 3 p.m. Friday. All of those will be held at GLMV Architecture, 1525 E. Douglas.

They are open to the public.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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