The public library has always been the place where a community can combine and pool assets to provide resources and tools that individuals and groups use for a wide range of benefits — for education, for self-improvement, for simple enjoyment. Traditionally, those resources have taken the form of the library’s collection (books, videos, magazines, etc.) and services (reference, story times, public computing, etc.). One of my primary roles as a consultant on this project was to determine the space needed to properly house an active and popular library collection and services, based on metrics that looked at the Scarborough community’s current size and future growth. Current best practices in libraries around the country are to make these valued collections and services more accessible and visually appealing. It takes space to do this right.

While collection remains at the core of the library’s mission, today’s public library fulfills its role in the community in increasingly diverse ways. Over the past generation, programming has come to occupy a more prominent place in the library’s mission. Today it’s a critical means whereby the public library fosters engagement, exchange, and learning. Between 2004 — when the Institute for Museum and Library Services first reported this measure — and 2019, the number of program events sponsored by U.S. public libraries more than doubled, from 2.5 million to just under 6 million. The number of people attending library programs likewise increased, from 67.3 million to 123 million.

It requires enough properly planned space for a library to continue to be a place where the community combines and shares essential resources and services for the betterment of all. Additional and larger meeting spaces and a separated and expanded area for youth will address current and future needs. I have reviewed the Scarborough Public Library’s proposed expansion plans and am pleased they have incorporated much of my advice, creating a plan that is both big enough and flexible enough to assure that the Scarborough Public Library will remain an essential hub for your community for many years to come.

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