The communities and neighborhoods served by the Dayton Metro Library are in the midst of significant change. The loss of traditional automotive manufacturing jobs during recent years demands our community refresh its workforce so it can be prepared for the coming decades. Doing so demands all public and private institutions focus their efforts on developing the human potential in our community.
This effort to build greater Dayton's civic, intellectual and economic capacity begins by preparing our children for success in school, encouraging our teens and young adults to aspire for more than just a diploma from high school and preparing them for successful careers that may or may not include academic degrees but may include certification programs and even informal learning experiences.
Further, residents of Montgomery County want to succeed as individuals. They also want to succeed as contributors to their community. This means being successful employees as well as employers, entrepreneurs, and volunteers to organizations that make our region stronger, more cohesive and better able to aid those who cannot help themselves.
Creating an educated and capable workforce is lost if the residents of the Miami Valley do not find the area to be a desirable place for living and for raising their children. Our communities need to retain our area's best graduates, our skilled workers, and even our retirees if we want to succeed in a global marketplace. Among its parks, museums and other cultural assets, the Dayton Metro Library is one of the most heavily used amenities. Offering a high quality library experience is one way to make the Dayton area competitive.
In these and a variety of other ways the Dayton Metro Library can significantly contribute to meeting the needs of the Miami Valley and its residents. This facilities plan outlines how the Dayton Metro Library and its partners can expand their impact in the greater Miami Valley through a planned and systematic transformation of its library facilities.
Note: Facilities for Results: Discussion Draft 4.0 was shared widely with residents during the summer and fall of 2012 and was the basis of the successful bond issue in November. As the library began developing its building program with the assistance of the Dayton Design Collaborative additional details and new recommendations were prepared and introduced to the public in March 2013. This April 2013 Update reflects the changes to the Facilities for Results Plan. Much of the original research, background data and recommendations remain valid and are unchanged from the draft document.
Building Facilities based upon Strategic Plan for Results
In 2008, the Board of the Dayton Metro Library adopted a new Strategic Plan that addressed these community needs. Turning Your Ideas into Results: the Dayton Metro Library 2008 Strategic Plan for Results identified five key areas where library services and programs needed to improve. This plan was the result of scores of community meetings involving more than 450 residents, community leaders and partner organizations. This planning process identified key community needs where the library could position itself as a leader or significant player. The list of community needs found most important by participants included:
Outcome 1: Youth Succeeding
From birth, youth will have the resources, programs, and services to stimulate intellectual development and curiosity and will receive support to succeed in school.
Outcome 2: Adults Succeeding and Lifelong Learning
Adults and teens will have the services and resources they need to improve their literacy, enter into and compete in the global economy, participate in civic life and otherwise contribute to our community. Residents of every age and background will have access to current resources in desired formats to explore topics of interest and to find and evaluate information critical to making life decisions.
Outcome 3: Community Commons
Individual residents, groups, businesses and other organizations will find comfortable, safe and accessible spaces to use library resources, to attend programs, and to strengthen the community through both planned and informal interactions.
Outcome 4: Discovery and Interaction in a Virtual World
Residents will have ready access to computer technology, training and support for the purposes of educational, career and economic achievement, creative expression and participation in a digital world.
Outcome 5: Stimulating Imagination
Residents of every age and background will find diverse collections of materials and programs for entertainment and to enhance their leisure time.
Within each of the five outcome areas are two or three operational goals, specific programs that specifically outline how those outcomes are to be achieved. Additionally, measurable outcomes were established to track progress toward plan completion.
Library Buildings are the Biggest Obstacle to Meeting Strategic Goals
Even before the formal adoption of the strategic plan, the Dayton Metro Library and its planning participants recognized that in order to meet its various strategic goal objectives it would have to make significant improvements to library facilities.
During the first eight months of 2008 the library with the assistance of its consultants, Burges and Burges of Cleveland and David Milling Associates, Architects from Ann Arbor laid the groundwork for the facilities plan. This work included staff and trustee workshops and public input sessions. A technical advisory committee of community members familiar with large public works projects reviewed the work of the library.
As a result of significant analysis of demographic changes, current conditions of library facilities, documented levels of library usage, the special needs of library patrons and trends in library service, this facilities plan recommended the board undertake a major overhaul and reconfiguration of its branches and a major enhancement of the main library.
In order to develop the recommendations in this plan the library undertook extensive research during 2008 to gauge patron perceptions about what they wanted from the library and its facilities. This research also took inventory of library facilities and their conditions, and norms and trends in library facilities around the country.
The global recession and other changes since 2008
In October 2008 as the facilities planning process neared completion of its data gathering phase, the bursting of the mortgage bubble, its impact on Wall Street, and the resulting economic recession derailed opportunities to pursue final plans for new and improved library facilities. Tentative strategies under consideration early in 2008 called for both a replacement of the library's expiring operating levy in 2009 and placement of a separate ballot issue for facilities in 2010 or 2011. As a result of the faltering economic conditions the facilities planning process was temporarily suspended and passage of a more modest library operating levy in 2009 became the library's prime focus.
In 2009 the depth of the recession and the closure and loss of major employers in the Dayton area further jeopardized support for all local public services. The State of Ohio's need to balance its 2010-2011 budgets resulted in substantially reduced library funding. A 0.5 mil increase in the Dayton Metro Library's operating levy restored much of the 2009 state funding cuts, but still left the library without any new funding for facilities.
In 2010 the Board of Trustees endorsed a Budget of Sustainability. This revision to the strategic plan documented needed cuts in service such as hours of operation, significant long term reductions in staffing, and reduced expenditures for materials. It also emphasized the need for more cost effective delivery of services.
The Budget of Sustainability recognized that many of the measurable outcomes and service aspirations called for in the 2008 Strategic Plan for Results could not be achieved. Not only were funds going to be inadequate to maintain hours of operation, but lower funding levels would result in fewer programs to reach special populations and fewer new titles for library collections. The Board recognized that limited efforts to begin improving its facilities and to expand access to the Internet could be funded with its building and repair fund and from within the operating fund.
This plan is cognizant that the worldwide recession devastated the economic capacity of our State and our region. Property values, average incomes and spending levels by residents, businesses and government have shrunk. Employment opportunities and the quality of life in the greater Miami Valley continue to suffer. This plan acknowledges these realities and the number, size and configuration of library facilities described in this plan are appropriately limited in scope and costs compared to recommendations considered just a few years earlier.
Finally, this plan also takes into consideration the continuing impact of technology and its impact on the role of libraries in society. Streaming video and ebooks will continue to impact the need and use of library spaces. Alternatives to traditional printed materials will augment but not replace the need for library bookshelves. This plan calls for substantially smaller collections of books, magazines and physical media. At the same time, it also calls for much more accessible collections and less dense shelving. Of greater importance is that while collections and space for shelving may shrink, the need for library space overall will continue to increase.
It is important to underscore that the needs identified in this recommendation were developed through regular and in-depth conversations with the residents serviced by the library. This plan reflects their needs and desires. Appendix A. summarizes two online and paper surveys of library patrons conducted in 2008 and again in 2011. In each survey users told the library that library buildings were convenient and generally in good shape; however, reading spaces were inadequate, and certainly the number of computers for public use fell far short of demand. Library patrons wanted more room for collections of books and meeting rooms. Respondents were divided in their desire to see larger and fewer branches.
Appendix B. summarizes a peer analysis of 10 U.S. libraries most similar to the Dayton Metro Library and demonstrates that residents of Dayton find its library buildings far smaller than those found in other medium and large urban library systems. The Dayton Metro Library has more branches for its size but due to significantly smaller size the total amount of space devoted to library services is well below that of its peers. Further, the library's historic emphasis on quality print and media collections as demonstrated by the sheer number of volumes in its buildings means less space is available for people. Dayton Metro Library patrons borrow at twice the national average, but total visitors, the number of computers and their use, and program attendance fall into an average range.
In short, the library has been most successful in its role as a place for individuals to pick up books and videos. Other ways in which the library could or should contribute to community success have been stymied by the conflict over space.
In a branch designed much like a "one room schoolhouse" a story time program with pre-school children and their caregivers exploring rhymes compromises the use of the branch for study and research. Just as the inadequate number of public access computers fails to meet the need for individuals attempting to cross the digital divide, the large number of unsatisfied computer users turns the library's minimal reading rooms into waiting rooms.
Addressing Diverse Community Needs with Modern Library Spaces
This facilities plan calls for substantially increasing the amount and variety of public space available to library visitors. Currently Dayton Metro Library branches have gross sizes that average 9,100 sq. ft. Many of the urban branches are less than 6,000 sq. ft. As patrons and staff alike can attest, even in the furthest reaches of its stacks, a conversation at the circulation counter can be heard throughout the branch library.
Rather than build larger versions of the "one room libraries" characterized by a single reading room and adjoining arrays of book stacks, future library visitors will find unique spaces to meet their diverse needs. These unique spaces will allow for a much wider range in the variety of users and most importantly will accommodate these different user groups simultaneously.
For the Dayton Metro Library to achieve the goals and aspirations of its strategic plan library space must increase, but more importantly, how that space is designed must change to meet the current and future needs of the residents we serve.
Bustling lobbies with space for residents to mingle, browse new materials or discuss the latest bestseller will be a distinctly different space than the quiet reading rooms or study spaces. Space design will allow for a program or story hour at the building to occur but not overwhelm the decorum of the entire facility.
Offering unique spaces, with the ability for different simultaneous uses of the library cannot occur in a 6,000 sq. ft. or even a 10,000 or 12,000 sq. ft. space; the minimum space demands branches of at least 15,000 sq. ft. with the ideal size being more than 20,000 sq. ft. The following design criteria provide insight into how the libraries of the future will differ from current facilities.
Increase the amount of space for people
In recent decades public space for library reading and in-house use of materials has steadily decreased. This is best illustrated by the loss of reading space at the main library which offered over 425 seats for reading when it opened in 1962 and has been reduced to approximately 190 total seats today. This loss of reading space has been less by design than by necessity as new collections, media, and technology – and the staff to support them – have increased in number, variety and complexity.
Counts of books and media maintained at each location have grown considerably since these buildings were built and first occupied. For instance, the East Branch first opened in 1969 but hasn't changed in size or general layout since then. Over four decades ago the branch opened with a collection of 20,000 books. By 2010, the branch collection had grown by 70% to more than 35,000 items.
The obvious consequence of this growth has been that space for reading and study has been reduced to accommodate these larger collections. At every branch, space for computers, displays and even staff have all conspired to reduce space for library readers. With an increase in branch service hours that began in the1990s, library staff size reached an all-time high in 2008. While the number of staff assigned to work at the library circulation desk has been reduced since then, the number of specialized and professional staff positions added in the past decade illustrates the shifting needs of the community and a more proactive response by the library to meet those needs. Positions such as Business Specialist, Collection Development Specialist, Early Literacy Specialist, Grants Information Specialist, Older Adult Specialist, Technology Reference Assistant, Teen Librarian, and Webmaster were all created as a result of recent strategic plan initiatives.
This plan will restore lost seating and reading table counts, but the layout, types and variety of those furnishings will be appreciably different. Some seating will be in small study and tutoring rooms, while additional seating will be isolated in quiet reading rooms. The variety of furnishings will vary significantly. Most tables for adults and older children will be designed for two and occasionally four readers; casual and comfortable reading chairs will be interspersed with the collections; adult-sized chairs will be found in the Children's rooms; bistro tables, benches; technology booths and play seating will offer unique options and special appeals that will be as diverse as the community of library users we serve.
This plan calls for a near doubling in the count of undesignated seating system-wide.
Reduce collections while expanding the space for display, browsing and use
This plan recognizes the strength of the library's existing collections of books, media, government documents and periodicals. Yet, it also recognizes the changing world of research, reading and the use of technology to access the world's information. The future of reading will be based less on printed material and more on access to electronic materials.
In the coming decades there will continue to be the need for libraries to collect and preserve printed information but the most important role of libraries will change from being a place filled with collections to being a place filled with people consuming, creating and sharing information.
In this plan, the amount of space for printed library books and media will be reduced with branch library collection spaces being reduced by 22%. In contrast, the space people will use for reading and other public uses will more than double.
This plan calls for an even more aggressive reduction in the number of items available to the public at the branches so that less dense shelving and ease of browsing can be accommodated. Total branch print collection counts will be reduced by 40%. Streaming media will continue to replace DVDs and CDs in the marketplace and this plan anticipates that collection space for these items will be reduced by 90% within the coming decade.
Some might express surprise in a recommendation to reduce collection counts by 40% in a plan that calls for a substantial increase in total space. As outlined in the peer library analysis found in Appendix B., this plan takes into consideration that the current Dayton Metro Library's percentage of space devoted to collections is significantly higher than every peer library. Readers of this report need to be aware that with the number of branch locations being reduced, there will be less need for duplication or copies of titles around the system. The growth in the availability and use of ebooks will also continue to reduce the need for printed items on the shelf.
The main library collections will see an even larger reduction in the amount of space devoted to printed books and physical media. The number of titles and count of total copies maintained at the main library will decrease only a small amount as space savings will be achieved primarily through high density compact shelving. As with branch popular collections, the main library's popular collections will be housed in much less dense shelving with books creatively displayed and intermixed with seating.
Sixty percent of the main library's collections are hidden away in closed stacks. These collections include older titles, government documents, research and local history collections. This plan calls for a serious re-evaluation and weeding of those collections and the remaining volumes of those formally closed collections re-integrated into the general stacks or stored in high density shelving. The result will be that most of the library's collections will be opened up to browsers and researchers. Patrons will no longer be limited to searching these titles through the online catalog. Local History and other special collections will remain in appropriately secure and closed stacks.
Substantially expand the number and variety of computers available for public computing and Internet access
The Library currently provides just over 300 computers for public Internet and general computing use. This number is woefully inadequate for a library with the demands placed on it by its residents. It is recommended that the number of computers available to the public increase significantly to more than 600 computers at the branches and 100 at the main library. Many of these computers will continue to be desktop computers for individuals to sit at a traditional computer workstation for use in preparing resumes or searching library databases and Internet resources. However, the changing face of computing will also dictate offering a broader range of computing services, such as scanners, intelligent whiteboards and other input devices. Tablets, ereaders and other computing devices will be used in greater numbers – either provided by the library or brought to the library by residents and visitors. In some locations computer labs will be established for technology and job skill instruction. When not in use for classes the lab computers will be available for use by the public.
Programming and meeting options within every library location
Currently five branch libraries have no dedicated meeting rooms. Even branches that have meeting rooms recognize they are significantly undersized due to building constraints or because seating capacities have been compromised to accommodate storage, puppet stages and other use specific fixtures.
Each new or expanded branch will have meeting rooms for adult library programs, book discussions, and community meetings but each will also have dedicated spaces for children's programs, school visits and other education specific activities. The largest branches will also have multiple conference rooms for small and medium-sized meetings of community groups and for use by informal study groups. Each new or expanded branch will offer small tutor and study rooms as well.
Unique spaces for unique library clientele
As described above there are multiple kinds of library uses. Construction of larger branches and redesigning existing branches to allow for these unique uses is only partially satisfied by the addition of meeting, tutor and activity rooms. Physically isolated quiet reading rooms that exhibit "no tolerance" decorum will provide an escape from the constant interruptions of computers, conversation and cell phones that are the hallmark of modern life. A branch library may generally see no more than 10 or 15 library users seeking the quiet refuge; but for them, this will be heavenly.
The library has been quite successful in drawing teens into its buildings. For most of the last decade use of teen literature has grown at double digit rates annually. Where library facilities have fallen short has been in providing adequate safe and constructive spaces for this important segment of the population. More than "throwing a bean bag in the corner" this plan calls for spaces that students can get homework help and interact as teens without feeling that they must choose to act like a young child or as an adult.
The Need to Realign Library Branches
Dayton Metro Library's current buildings reflect the history of Dayton, of Montgomery County, and of library funding in the State of Ohio. Three pre-WWII branches, two built in the 1920s and a third that might have been built over 130 years ago and converted to a library in the 1930s, are still in use today. One building from the 1940s was expanded slightly in the 1990s. The main library and seven of the branches in use today were built in the decade between 1955 and 1965. Five new branches were added or significantly expanded during the following 15 years with only two branches added or replaced during both the 1980s and 1990s. The last new branch built for the system was the Miami Township Branch that opened early in 2000.
The slowed pace of constructing new library spaces was certainly a consequence of reduced funding for library services. But this also documents that library spaces have not shifted to reflect changing needs and demographics. No new buildings have been added within the City of Dayton since the East and Madden Hills Branches opened over 40 years ago. Suburban communities served by the Dayton Metro Library have not faired much better. With the exception of the new construction in Miami Township in 1999 and the new Huber Heights Branch in 1995, only modest additions to the Belmont, West Carrollton and Northmont Branches have been completed in the last 20 years.
At the same time there has been a significant shift in population; primarily the residential and commercial exodus from the City of Dayton and the spread of the county's population southward are the largest demographic stories of the last fifty years. Total population within the Dayton Metro Library service district hasn't changed dramatically but there has certainly been a significant shift of residents from the City of Dayton to the suburban communities.
The Dayton Metro Library's service offerings have not kept pace with the demographic changes. It would be a travesty if the new facilities plan did not address the shifts in population and appropriately assign space to where the need and potential for use are greatest.
Recognizing the Unique Character of Dayton Metro Library Service Areas
Our branch libraries are as unique as the communities they serve. Each branch service area encompasses a different mix of residents, with widely varying ages, education and income. More generally, the branches can be loosely grouped into urban, suburban, and rural locations.
The two rural branch service areas have a projected stable population with relatively small populations. Residents make a proportionately smaller demand for services when compared with their more populous suburban and urban neighbors. The two branches, built at approximately the same time, were initially targeted for renovation. However, the comprehensive analysis conducted by architects and engineers following the passage of the bond issue discovered the quality of the construction and other hidden issues made new construction more sustainable and cost effective than renovation and expansion.
The populations of most suburban branch service areas are expected to remain relatively stable between now and 2030, or at least will experience only modest increases or declines. "First ring" suburbs, especially Trotwood, demonstrate some of the demographic attributes more closely aligned with the urban locations including higher poverty rates. Miami Township has been the clear exception to expectations with a more than 20% increase in the last decade.
The suburban residents are more likely to use libraries for programs and book collections. With more stay-at-home moms able to bring children to story time programs and more affluent adults with leisure time available to indulge in creative or intellectual pursuits, library programs are always well attended. Since suburban patrons are more likely to have their own computers, the competition for computer time is less intense but wait times still exist through much of the afternoon and early evening. Suburban branches have the opportunity to become "the Third Place" for residents beyond home and work. They have meeting rooms that are well used for both branch programs and community groups. There is a need for comfortable spaces to sit, read, study or talk with friends.
Residents within the urban core need their branches in different ways. The urban branches clearly show the most challenge and the greatest need for change. Four of the branches have no meeting rooms at all, and a fifth has only a token meeting area available. Programs are held in the branch reading areas crowding out those who come for reading and study. Urban branches have smaller square footage overall, and availability of computers is tightly constrained by lack of space. Unfortunately, the residents in these service areas have the least access to computers at home, and wait times at urban branches are longer than at suburban locations – at times exceeding two hours. In January 2011, patrons at the E.C. Doren Branch, one of the smallest in the system, logged more hours of computer use than much larger suburban facilities that have more computers available to the public. Clearly, access to computers is vital to the Old North Dayton community. West Dayton, Northwest Dayton and East Dayton each have similarly high demand for computers.
Demographic data for the urban branch libraries demonstrates the greater need for the library to reach out and engage a community where basic needs may outweigh the importance and enjoyment of reading. The urban branches have the highest populations living in poverty and significantly higher rates of unemployment.
Service objectives are significantly different between urban and rural branches. Suburban branch visitors are more likely to be looking for leisure reading. It is unfortunate that in economically stressed neighborhoods households are less likely to have a tradition of reading, and as a consequence after school programs and computer access are a higher priority of residents. The focus of the urban branches is to bring residents into the library and build a better future for their children through our early literacy initiatives, and to help adults find the resources they need to get jobs and navigate an increasingly complex world.
Dayton Metro Library's urban branch buildings lack precisely the characteristics their patrons need most. More than merely a spot to pickup and return books and media, the residents of Dayton's poorest neighborhoods need space for building community and for providing safe and constructive spaces for their children. They need computers and support to compete in an increasingly global and digital marketplace.
Without meeting space, we cannot provide programs to enhance educational achievement at any level. Without room for more computers, residents will simply sit and wait for their turn, taking up space that could be used by others who want to read or study. The inability of some visitors to find a quiet place to read is indicative of a vibrant library. However, creating quiet reading space that is separate from the center of activity within the branch will enable adults to engage in educational or cultural pursuits. This need for quiet reading is not limited to adult learners. School groups have no place to work together on projects, and book clubs have nowhere to sit together in discussion.
The residents in our urban neighborhoods deserve more. The Dayton Metro Library has the challenge to overcome the limitations of its current urban branches, and the opportunity to build libraries that are truly centers of community. Current branches can't be expanded to meet the diverse needs of area residents, even if funds were available to expand them. The model of fewer but significantly larger branches gives urban residents the chance for parity with their suburban counterparts in the physical structures, technology, collections and programs available to them.
Demographic Research for Allocation Decisions
In 2003 and 2008 the Dayton Metro Library contracted with the Wright State University's Center for Urban and Public Affairs (CUPA) and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) to help document and analyze population estimates and other demographic characteristics of Montgomery County in order to address where to best locate new library assets.
A key element of the 2003 CUPA study was to help define library service districts and to understand patron behavior and use of library branches. Geospatial mapping of library use illustrated where residents live and answered questions about which library branches residents are most likely to visit. This also gave the Library concrete data about the demographics of each branch service area.
MVRPC's work in 2008 updated the demographic changes within our branch service areas and helped the library explore some options for analysis and discussion of space allocation. With the release of 2010 U.S. Census data in 2011, this draft plan includes actual 2010 census data and MVRPC's estimates for each of the library's branch service areas. Population shifts from 2000 to 2010 have been dramatic and have clearly shown an acceleration of the changes that occurred in the closing decades of the last century.
As a part of its work in 2008, the MVRPC developed 2030 projections based on the 2000 census and projection of population changes determined at the state level. The accelerated changes documented by the 2010 census have made those earlier projections obsolete. New projections for Dayton Metro Library branch service areas have not been constructed and will not be available until Ohio county population projections are developed by the State of Ohio.
Appendix C. Figures 1 and 2 map basic demographic information for libraries in Montgomery County using 2010 Census data. Figure 3 illustrates service area populations by age. Additional maps in this section provide usage profiles for specific branch service areas.
Re-thinking the need for large branch collections
One of the most difficult decisions the library and its consultants considered was how much expansion to library buildings could be justified and afforded by Montgomery County taxpayers. Current planning guidelines used by library consultants suggest a basic system size of 1.0 sq. ft. of library space for each resident. Moderate and optimal size library facilities would require 1.15 and 1.30 square feet per capita respectively. As the library currently only has 0.63 sq. ft. per capita, even the basic and moderate planning guidelines would require the library to expand space substantially. The optimal library size for our community would require the Board to more than double the size of its buildings.
As discussed above, the Dayton Metro Library recognized the need for its facilities to be focused on expanding spaces for people. The library also recognized that the capacity of its community to support the cost of construction and operation of its library buildings is limited, particularly in the current economic environment.
The library and its planning consultant calculated how many square feet would be needed for the Dayton Metro Library when the size of its current collections are combined with the space needed to provide modern library services as described in this plan. Due to the large size of if its book and media collections, the study found that the library would need up to 1.32 sq. ft. per capita for even a moderate configuration and that the optimal configuration would require nearly 1.50 sq. ft. per capita. It was easy to recognize that the cost of these larger configurations would be prohibitively expensive. Preliminarily budget calculations for even the moderate configuration found that the project cost would total more than $287 million, $100 million higher than ultimately recommended for the bond issue.
The library also recognized that new technology would mean a reduction in demand for printed materials. The emergence of ebooks and downloadable media will eventually lessen the need for physical media. In a break from the planning recommendations of its consultant, the library discounted its needs calculations substantially. Due to the exceptionally large collections, the library determined it could reduce the size of the branch print collections needed by 40% and the media collections space by 90%. This change in calculations resulted in a substantial reduction in the total configuration of library space, but allowed for the plan to become considerably more affordable without compromising the quality or the amount of space devoted to serving the needs of library users. The main library collections sizes were reduced as well. The main library will continue to serve as a depository of lesser used and research titles that would be available for delivery to branches upon request.
Establishing branch sizes based on needs and usage
Appendix D., Table 1 (PDF) summarizes the total square feet needed for the Dayton Metro Library based upon substantially smaller branch collections.
Appendix D. Table 2 (PDF) and Table 3 (PDF) documents the current space allocations and recommended needs requirements for the Dayton Metro Library system summarized for both the main library and each of the branches. The initial plan recommended expanding the total system size from approximately 310,000 sq. ft. to 480,000 sq. ft., with branch space increasing from 181,000 sq. ft. to 280,000 sq. ft. The revised plan calls for branch space to increase to 306,000 sq. ft.
A truly fresh look at the facilities needs of the Dayton Metro Library required a disciplined approach to determining how much space in square feet each branch should be. A combination of demographic data and usage data from each of the existing branch service areas provided a mechanism for allocating the system-wide library space needs to the branch level. Theoretically, once system-wide space needs for branches is determined, how much is allocated for each service area can be calculated based upon what percentage of the population resides in each service area and what percentage of library use occurs within that service area.
This formula-based allocation of space is fraught with challenges, but does offer a starting point. The library determined that library needs could be quantified by using population counts. However, merely using library needs (population) would not recognize that some branches are used more heavily than others. Similarly, some usage figures such as circulation and door counts would not appropriately recognize the unique ways in which libraries are used.
To supplement the demographic data, the library maintains detailed historical and trend data for each of its branches and the services they provide to residents in their respective services areas. This data includes site specific inventories of computers, seating, book stocks, meeting rooms, parking spaces, staffing, etc. Usage measures such as the number of items loaned, computer usage, door counts and program attendance can be found in Appendix E. This table also provides a formula for estimating the relative size of each branch.
Initially four library needs factors were identified to quantify the level of need for library service within each branch service area. Actual 2000 population counts and projected 2030 population counts as provided by MVRPC were given the highest weight. Those weights were tempered slightly by a calculation of the percentage of population in poverty, usage figures and average wait times for library computers. As discussed above, with the release of 2010 census data, the original 2030 population projections can no longer be used with confidence. New projections for 2040 or beyond are not yet available. As a result, only 2010 population counts represent the basis for library need, while an adjusted accrual of computer wait times within each library is factored in to recognize that some facilities are less capable of meeting demand. Poverty rates were also dropped from the analysis since changes in data collection of poverty levels prevent the inclusion of this factor.
Three library use factors were identified to quantify the relative amount of demand currently demonstrated by residents: average monthly circulation, average monthly number of hours of computer sessions, and average monthly visitors. Library data for each factor is updated annually. Appendix F. describes the weighting in more detail. Appendix G. summarized the calculations for the incorporation of both library needs factors and library use factors.
Minimum facility sizes require the merger of branches
For a branch to exhibit the unique characteristics described above it must have, at a minimum, 15,000 sq. ft. of space. The ideal branch configuration needs to be considerably larger. Currently only two Dayton Metro Library branches meet the minimum standard. To merely allocate additional space among the current 20 branch library service districts is logistically impossible. Many of Dayton Metro Library's existing branches – and all of its urban branches – are landlocked and cannot be expanded into larger branches.
Further, even if the library were to build all new facilities to replace those that cannot be expanded, the results would not prove satisfactory as the recommended size of the Dayton Metro Library's branch system fails to support building 20 large branches. Merging several of the smallest geographically close library service areas into larger districts is the only way to build branches of sufficient size to achieve the ideal user experience within a budget the library and community can afford.
This ideal design standard does not mean that every branch under 15,000 square feet must merge or be closed. Several of the library's existing branch service areas do not have sufficient population to warrant an 18,000 sq. ft. branch. Still, the necessity to have a branch may be driven by a population being geographically isolated from neighboring branches. The E.C. Doren Branch in old north Dayton and the two rural branches are the best examples.
Expanding Impact without Expanding Operating Costs
The strategy of merging smaller branches into larger facilities is driven first and foremost by the commitment to provide the best possible library service. Yet, this strategy has another significant advantage – better efficiency of operation. The challenge to secure funding for this plan was huge, with the challenge of funding the operation of an expanded facilities inventory even more daunting. One objective of this plan is to operate the new larger facilities within the same cost of the smaller existing facilities.
In 2008 the library estimated that if it were to expand its existing facilities by 80%, and maintain its 20 existing branches, it could expect a 55% increase in operating costs. Consolidating branches as proposed would limit those increased costs to about 20%. Operating costs are expected to be reduced further due to lower staffing costs, less duplication of collections, and higher energy efficiency.
One wildcard that cannot be easily projected is the amount of increased use by residents of the new buildings. Substantial improvement of library service will result from the construction of new branches. It is logical to assume that at least some of the library's current patrons will use the library longer and more often than they do now. Non-users can be expected to begin using the library as these new facilities come online. The greater efficiency of operating with fewer larger branch locations is expected to be anywhere from 20-45% than from the existing smaller branches they will replace. If use skyrockets, operating costs will grow. At some point, if library use exceeds the efficiencies gained, then operating costs could exceed current budgets thus putting pressure on the library to seek additional funding. In some ways this would be a nice problem to have to share with politicians, voters and taxpayers.
Identifying Urgent Projects
Appendix F. summarizes an assessment of the Dayton Metro Library branch facilities based upon 20 different criteria. This evaluation examines some of the inherent characteristics of the buildings and their ability to serve residents within their service district. The specific location of a branch within the district or the historic value represents the most obvious examples. Overall aesthetics, signage, seating and other criteria related to the qualitative aspects of the facilities and its furnishings were also evaluated and ranked.
The overall assessments do more than summarize the condition of the spaces. They illustrate how well the building serves the population.
David Milling Associates, Architects conducted a basic technical evaluation of the buildings and provided an assessment of additional elements, such as roof construction and mechanical systems replacements. They also assessed the buildings for their ability and capacity to be expanded.
It is obvious that the lowest ranked branches from Appendix F. represent the greatest urgency from a library service viewpoint. However, there are many mechanical system problems discussed in the report that also call for urgent action.
Imagining a new main library in downtown Dayton
Much has changed in our community since the current 129,000 sq. ft. main library opened on East Third Street in 1962. At that time the library had approximately 380,000 volumes and its collections were limited primarily to books and magazines. Long-playing 33 RPM vinyl records were considered the "new technology". There were no computers. Innovative services of the time included a "typing room" and microfilm readers.
It has been fifty years since the main library first opened, and demand for library service continues to grow and diversify. Not only have our collections nearly doubled to contain over 650,000 items, but new technologies and more sophisticated services have demanded more staff and user support. To meet current and future needs for printed, recorded and electronic information, the greater Dayton community needs a new main library building.
The Dayton Metro Library's strategic plan indentified its outdated facilities as the most significant obstacle to reaching its mission and service objectives. The time has come to generate the same level of energy and excitement about a new main library as was created for a minor league baseball stadium in 1990s.
Community desire for a better main library has been illustrated many times. Polling and community surveys have documented dissatisfaction with the current building. Noise, lack of seating, and the unavailability of convenient parking are most often cited. During the last twenty years there have been repeated suggestions made by community leaders and in the media to relocate the main library to under-used or vacant buildings elsewhere in downtown Dayton. These repeated suggestions to leave the current building must certainly be due in part to a hope for something better.
A main library will fuel the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan
Appendix G. outlines site selection guidelines for all new library facilities and contains unique criteria for site selection of the main library. The main library's current location in Cooper Park offers the benefit of a prime downtown location – close to the RTA transportation hub, near clusters of new residential construction, and situated between two key destination areas (Fifth/Third Field and the Oregon Arts District).
The full block that contains the current main library and Cooper Park was deeded to the City of Dayton by Daniel Z. Cooper, grandson of one of the city's founding families. The entire block and a several adjoining plots of land to the north were donated to the city with the covenant that the plots be used as a public walk. In the mid-1880s the City's fathers were satisfied that constructing a public library in Cooper Park was faithful to the original Cooper's intent and the first standalone public library building in downtown Dayton was constructed and opened in 1888.
In the late 1950s a capital improvement levy was passed and again the city commission agreed to deed additional land to the library board for the construction of an additional library. A conditional deed enabled the library board to build the current facility with the stipulation that if the library board were to choose to no longer use the building for library purposes, land ownership would revert back to the City of Dayton.
The current main library building was erected at a time when the downtown water table was artificially lowered by industrial uses of water. Now the facility is literally floating on top of an aquifer, and 25% of the main library's space (a lower level two floors below street grade) is regularly at risk of damage from flooding. A large dewatering well keeps the problem at bay, but prevents the library from using it for anything but non-important storage. The post-levy comprehensive architectural and engineering analysis determined that the below-ground levels can withstand the weight of a parking facility. This discovery provided a solution to both the water situation and the need for off-street parking while lessening the proposed footprint in Cooper Park.
The main library building currently functions as the administrative hub and a central resource for the entire library system. The creation of an outreach and operations center to relocate backroom functions will reduce the cost per square foot for these essential business components and maximize patron space at the updated main library.
One of the changing roles of the main library will be to better serve as the "branch" for a larger segment of Dayton's population. Overall reduction in the number of library branches, particularly within the City of Dayton will result in fewer new branches being located in the urban core. Downtown neighborhoods, including the Central Business District, Oregon District, St. Anne's Hill, McPherson Town, and Wright Dunbar already use the main library as their primary branch. Residents of other near-downtown neighborhoods such as South Park, Twin Towers, Huffman, Lower Riverdale, Southern Dayton View, Carillon and Edgemont may rely more heavily on the main library while still having the option of using the replacement branches.
A new main library as community destination
A new main library in downtown Dayton will be a destination that draws people to downtown from throughout Montgomery County and beyond. It will be a seven day per week attraction available every week of the year. Residents will be proud to share this community asset with their visiting friends and family. It will be a reflection of the pride they have in their community. It will provide amenities and services that not only bring visitors downtown but will also serve as a catalyst for development and as an added incentive for residents to live downtown.
In addition to collections be displayed in interesting and innovative ways, a bright, comfortable and secure building environment will encourage people to stay, interact and enjoy themselves. The library will not just support reading and research, but will offer meeting rooms, gallery space, computers, and a variety of complimentary services and amenities. Special events and exhibits by visual and performing artists will be regular sights. Visitors will have space to interact without trying to restrict their conversation to reflect the traditional library environment. The library will see thousands of visitors per day and people will visit the library to "see and be seen." As a community living room, the library's main reading area will be a casual space conducive to conversation and interaction. Reading tables and informal seating will be widely spread out so individuals won't feel crowded by other visitors. Coffee and snacks will be available for purchase.
On a greater scale than found in the new branches, the main library will offer a range of spaces for visitors from the wide open main reading room to quiet nooks. Closed meeting areas will be available for those wanting to focus on serious study and research.
The current downtown library, despite its limits, draws over 1,000 people on a typical day. That translates into around 40,000 visitors per month and 500,000 visitors per year. Expanding its offerings and capacity will certainly increase usage. Downtown Dayton needs a year-round free destination open seven days a week. The draw of a new main library can serve as a genuine catalyst for other development in Downtown Dayton.
A new main library to offer unique space for diverse uses
As visitors explore beyond the main reading room they will encounter diverse collections of books, media and magazines surrounded by a variety of library furnishings that will engender easy access. Study carrels will facilitate more intense study and research. Specialty equipment and furnishings such as magnifying book-readers and computers designed for patrons with specific disabilities will be available to accommodate special needs.
When the current main library opened in 1962 there were over 425 general purpose seats at tables or in reading areas. Today that number has shrunk to less than 190.
Along with adequate seating to accommodate the needs of readers, the atmosphere users find is just as important to their satisfaction. Just as the kinds of materials housed by the library have diversified, the variety of uses of the library has increased as well. As a result the library needs to present different atmospheres. Long gone is the "quiet library decorum" characterized by low whispers enforced by archetypical librarians shushing violators. Still, among the most often heard complaints of our current library is the lack of quiet study areas. In our current facility, limited seating has resulted in a higher density of library users and the distractions of cell phones, personal computers and other electronic devices have left most library spaces unsuited for reading and study.
The new library will have a diverse set of spaces to meet the changing needs of residents and the way they use their libraries. Design and style can go a long way towards defining spaces for group study where discussion is appropriate but separate from special "zero tolerance" quiet reading rooms that can offer maximum respite from the steady din found in any modern public library.
Meeting spaces for two, for twenty, and for two-hundred & fifty
The main library has supported nonprofit organizations by making space available for hundreds of their meetings each year. Public entities hold formal hearings and other meetings in the library's meeting rooms – all without charge.
The current library's limited number of public meeting rooms does not meet demand. The main library today has only two meeting rooms with a total maximum capacity of just over 100 people. The inflexible space is unable to accommodate the range of uses groups seek.
A new library will have a fixed seat auditorium for programmed events such as musical performances, speakers and major author visits sponsored by the library; and such a facility will be used by other groups hosting forums and special events.
Flexible meeting and activity rooms will not only address internal needs for meeting space, but more importantly will serve as a venue for nonprofit and community organizations. The necessary lobbies and kitchens will be included, allowing groups to use the library for a full range of events without disrupting other library services.
Designing collections for exploration and discovery
A major goal in configuring a new main library building will be to present the library's collections in the most accessible means available. Today the main library has over 66,000 linear feet of shelving in use. Unfortunately over 60% of the library's collections are in closed stacks unavailable to the general public. A new main library will make nearly all of those materials directly available to the public.
In order to meet the needs of the next 50 years, some additional shelving will be part of a new main library design. However, new technology will slow the growth in traditional print and physical media collections and some collections will likely shrink in size.
Despite stabilization in the number of items held in its collections, the library will substantially increase the space allocated for these collections. The new main library will house materials with considerably less density than is currently found. Lower stack heights with wider aisles will be interspersed with a variety of seating and appropriate technology.
Emphasis will be on the display of popular materials in furnishings that enhance access. Specialized materials such as videos, CDs and many types of children's materials need special shelving that promotes browsing. As retail has learned, special displays and topical exhibits can do a lot to spark interest and promote use. Most people come to the library with specific titles or topics in mind, but many also explore the library with hopes of stumbling onto something new and different. It is the serendipity of browsing the library that makes it a special space.
Demand varies for different materials owned by the library. The newest books and media in the highest demand will be highlighted with bookstore-type display shelving in high traffic locations. Other collections, such as older government documents and bound periodicals, will be housed in high density compact shelving appropriate for the amount of use. Most materials should sit on open shelving.
Technology appropriate to the collections will be readily available. Genealogical and historic collections will have microfilm readers. Audio-visual collections will be surrounded with listening stations and computers for downloading music, videos and audio books to ebook readers, tablets and smart phones. High definition displays will broadcast news and promote popular movies and documentaries in the library's collection.
Special spaces for children
Children are the most important clients we serve. They are the future of our community. In meetings and surveys we are regularly told that programs which support literacy and the education of our children are among the most valued services we offer. Assisting parents, teachers and caregivers in developing a literate and critical thinking society is one of our primary goals. At the core of meeting this goal is our collection of children's books. Parents, home-school and elementary school teachers use these materials to foster a love of reading. Kids love them because they are fun and fascinating.
Less than 6,000 sq. ft. is currently devoted to public spaces for children in the main library. With the sprouting of charter schools, many of them in downtown Dayton, and the emergence of new housing options immediately adjacent to the Library, the need for expanded space for children's book collections and story hours and other children's programming is undeniable.
Spaces for kids require lower shelving but children's spaces need to be more than just scaled-down versions of the adult sections of the library. Special furnishings and decorations can make the difference between our library being viewed as a government fixture and a grander vision of the library as a space of wonder and inspiration. To draw children and their parents, the library needs to borrow effective retail marketing and museum display concepts to create inviting, whimsical and enchanting spaces.
In addition to collections and unique spaces for children of school age, another critical component of a new main library will be designated spaces for teachers and parents charged with the development of children. Caregivers will find resources to help them be successful in educating children and preparing them for school.
Early learning spaces filled with traditional board books and picture books will share space with games, manipulative learning tools, and other non-book materials and technology that enable the youngest children to become familiar with language and print that will aid them to become ready for kindergarten.
Equal access to information in a virtual world
The growth in demand for Internet access by those who cannot afford their own computers is matched only by the growing breadth and pervasiveness of the Internet as seen in the rest of our society. To meet this demand the next main library will need to increase the number of computers with modern office software and high speed Internet access from accommodating less than 50 to more than 200 simultaneous users.
Today's space constraints limit the number of public computers at the main library. Each day users are left waiting and the library struggles with metering out this scarce resource by placing artificial time limits.
The consequences of inadequate computers for the public manifest themselves in a number of ways. The most obvious effect is that those seeking access to computers aren't being served. Some wait, others merely leave in frustration. A less obvious consequence is the loss of space for other library users. Reading tables and other seating areas become waiting rooms for un-served computer users. The library becomes a smaller and less useful place for everyone.
Government agencies, employers and even social service providers are increasingly providing their services online. Many expect their clients and customers to have ready access to computers and the Internet. The unfortunate reality is that significant numbers of residents don't have computer access. From those seeking assistance with resume writing, to those applying for jobs online, to those merely learning how to send an email message, the public library may be their only option to access the virtual world.
Counting the number of computers available to the public is only one measure of how public libraries contribute towards bridging the digital divide. People come to the library because they know they will find modern computers with high speed Internet access. But they also come because they know they will gain help in using the technology. The new main library will house separate teaching labs with up to 30 computers to augment the full service computer systems offered to the public. Future teaching labs will provide hands-on classes for new computer users, and advanced classes in Internet searching, business, and other topics.
Safe and constructive spaces for teens
Libraries have always been a place of learning for teens. As they grow older many teens try to stay clear of the study hall atmosphere many libraries invoke. Modern libraries have made concerted efforts to retain teens as active library users by providing collections, furnishings and an atmosphere that appeals to their sense of aesthetic.
The ideal teen space is almost a microcosm of an entire library. Books, media, magazines and computers will be housed together in a distinctly defined room with color schemes that evoke hip. Background music, posters and even lighting will contribute to the ambiance. Teen spaces will be fitted with furnishings that invite a relaxed shared space. While many adults may prefer working alone at a computer, preferably at a distance away from other computer users, teens often prefer computers configured to facilitate collaboration and sharing. As with children's space, teen spaces within a new main library building will be designed with their likes and needs in mind.
Center for nonprofit, business and entrepreneurial success
A recent study in Florida showed the direct economic benefit of nearly $840,000,000 per year for work-related uses of public libraries in that state. The value of public libraries to small businesses and entrepreneurs cannot be understated. A new building will allow the library to emulate the successes of the Memphis/Shelby County Public Library which created one centrally-located facility that serves the potential small business owner, the recently-licensed entrepreneur, and the established small business operator.
The Dayton Metro Library offers more than just books and other publications to aid in the economic and workforce development in the Miami Valley. Just as it has helped shape the face of philanthropic support in the Miami Valley, the library can offer programs, speakers' series and other forums to promote the use of its wealth of specialized databases and government documents, giving businesses of all sizes a competitive edge.
The Dayton Metro Library has been a long time partner with Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and houses the Grants Information Center as a member of the Foundation Center's Cooperating Collection. Library specialists in business and grants information regularly assist individuals and groups in meeting their business and service goals. A new main library will highlight these services with special and distinct collections and meeting rooms that facilitate one-on-one consultation and small group work.
Local history and genealogy
The Dayton Metro Library continues to be a special source of information about Dayton and the surrounding areas. The Local History Room has unique collections that can be found nowhere else in the world. These collections include the family archives of the Wright Brothers and a comprehensive collection of books and other publications of their childhood friend Paul Lawrence Dunbar.
Each day scores of genealogists access the unique collection of historical documents and records. Specialized databases and other collections draw visitors from all over the country seeking information about Dayton's residents. One of the most important sources is the collection of city directories and original newspapers, some dating back to the mid and late 1800s.
In 1999 a separate reading room and controlled-environment storage area were created. However, the size of the reading room is inadequate for the number of users; and many of the historical pieces, particularly newspapers, are at risk of further deterioration because of less than ideal storage space. The current Local History Room is located off of a crowded basement-level room never designed for public use. A new library will offer significantly improved access to historic print collections. Increased emphasis will be placed on providing computers and other equipment for digital scanning. Library staff, volunteers and individual patrons will participate in creating millions of pages of digital content from materials at risk of turning to dust.
Co-locating with complementary businesses and institutions
Just as bookstores have expanded their space to include comfortable seating and other amenities, successful new public libraries incorporate a host of features not found in libraries of the past. Library users seek more than knowledge. A new main library would benefit with a small mall of complementary stores and offices. That list of complimentary business partners might include:
Other nonprofit organizations might share space as well. Natural partners include literacy organizations, the Friends of the Dayton Metro Library, and the Dayton Metro Library Foundation. Other libraries have found many other creative ways to share space. Pre-schools and day care centers, museums, theaters, and local historical societies have found having a library right next door is good for their business!