Linda Demmers on Limited Resources and Effective Use of Library Spaces

Managing a public library building is managing the public trust creatively and economically—often with extremely limited resources, Libris Design Project Manager Linda Demmers reminds us in her new Infopeople workshop, Low Cost Space Planning and Remodeling. “You’re managing the physical assets of a city. If you have a 10,000 square foot library…you are basically managing a public asset that is worth over $6 million. It’s your responsibility that the public get the maximum return on that investment.”
Through her workshop, which will be offered in San Francisco (March 19, 2009), Buena Park (April 3, 2009), and Contra Costa County/Pleasant Hill (April 16, 2009), participants hear about and see images of innovative, low-cost remodeling efforts which Demmers has documented through her extensive travels and experience with library renovations. The result is that library staff, facility managers, and design professionals interested in planning a small or large library remodel walk away with “terrific ideas” from the course materials as well as from the experiences they share with each other, she said during a recent conversation. “The idea of the low-cost remodel is that it can be either an immediate or an intermediate solution to physical problems in a facility…One part of the workshop is what I call putting lipstick on the pig…if you are planning on a new library in the short-term, you don’t want to spend a lot of money (on the current one). A lot of what I’m showing in the workshop is things you can do at no cost.”
Among the topics covered are how to begin without the services of a consultant, which includes learning how to evaluate options, simplify the space-planning process, and test options before proceeding. Participants also discuss quick fixes including creative use of color to repaint a space; inexpensive replacement of outdated signage; merchandising; and sustainability which includes simple Green strategies. “Getting down to the nitty-gritty” is next on the agenda, with discussions about scheduling the project, budgeting for it, and evaluating it once it is finished. An in-class group project helps participants solidify their awareness of teamwork, decision-making, and presentation essentials.
With a goal of assuring that everyone with a stake in the process will be heard, “I do a lot of community meetings with stake holders so that people feel enfranchised through the process,” Demmers noted. “I’ve been doing it for 20 years. It’s pretty common in facility planning (and) a lot of communities have gotten familiar with the process of doing a needs assessment.”
Those interested in learning more about using their limited resources to improve their libraries in ways which better serve library members and guests will find registration ($75 per person) continuing on the Infopeople website for sessions of “Low Cost Space Planning and Remodeling.” Additional design planning resources are available in the Planning Documentation section of the Libris Design website.