Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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A hole in the heart of downtown

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    The Toledo-Lucas County Main Library will be closed for nearly a year. The citizens of Toledo were not consulted.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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  • CTY-library20p-8

    Clyde Scoles, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library executive director.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s decision to shut down for nearly a year to undertake a $10.4-million renovation is a lot to ask of the community — especially after having kept the decision process almost a state secret.

That’s an ironic thing for a library, libraries having often taken the lead to defend the public’s right to know.

RELATED: Renovations to close Main Library for almost a year

The library has a construction plan that will dramatically reorient the Main Library downtown. What is now the audio-visual section will become a “maker’s space” with small sound studios and other facilities that enable people to make videos, recordings, and otherwise explore their creative potential.

The computer area with 85 computers will be updated and will get away from the individual stalls to a more collaborative setting.

Another big change is that the gift shop and cafe on the garage level will move up to the main floor, with the addition of a gallery. The library intends a kind of Main Street that will extend from the Michigan Street entrance to the windows at the rear looking out on Uptown.

The Promenade — where the cafe and gift shop are now at the garage level — will be reconfigured to create meeting rooms and incubator space that will be accessible before and after the library’s open hours.

These are all exciting and appropriate improvements designed to increase the usage of the library and its usefulness, especially to people trying to create a future for themselves and their community.

What is unfortunate, and might have been avoided with some community input, is that one of Toledo’s most important institutions would be shut down for a year at a time when the downtown has some forward momentum with new companies moving their employees there.

Library Director Clyde Scoles has said that he did not have to get a vote of the board for this $10.4 million construction project that will interrupt access to the Main Library for a year. If he doesn’t need a board vote for that, for what would he ever need a board vote?

The library erred by not addressing its construction plans through the formal public board meeting process. It also understimated the huge hole it would leave in downtown Toledo.

The library has arranged for its own staff to continue working out of their offices in the main branch, and there will be staff on hand to continue making the collection available systemwide. The arguments in favor of a shutdown — for safety, to save money, to save time — are not without merit.

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But to mitigate the impact of its closure, the library owes its patrons at least one strong workaround — a temporary dowtown library station with access to computers and the ability to order books and films that could be shipped in upon request.

Many Central City people cannot get to branch libraries, at least not easily. Also, many homeless people use the library for warmth and shelter, especially in the winter. The downtown churches ought to collaborate on a clean, warm, and safe downtown adult day shelter and center.

Meanwhile, the library should construct a temporary reading and lending room somewhere downtown during the construction period.

Good for the library for its forward thinking, but let’s not leave the public in the lurch.

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