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Cambridge Public Library Project

I have been closely involved in a project to expand the Cambridge Public Library since 1996. I'm going to be writing about it for a while with some current news as well as a lot about the past. For a brief overview here is the situation.

Cambridge has a main library that is much too small; In 1993 it was decided that needs a new or significantly expanded library. This library sits on a crowded site that has a park, the High school and the library. Library consultants were hired in 1994 to make an overall plan and in 1995 architects worked on a proposal which was presented to the City Council in early 1996. This proposal built a new building attached to the old building that bisected the existing park. I happened to be at the fateful city council hearing for another reason (computerization of the election) and witnessed 100's of protesting neighbors which resulted in the non-approval of the project.

The Council asked the City Manager to appoint a committee to study the problem. I applied and was appointed to this committee called Library 21. This committee concluded that a new library was needed and wanted, it had to be about 95,000 sq. feet (the current one is 35,000) and that a comprehensive site search should be done to look at alternative sites. Consultants were hired for this and they proposed several sites including the current one. There was lots of lobbying for a site in Central square, but finally the city council chose the current site.

Architects and consultants were again hired. The principal architect is Bill Rawn (Tracy Kidder; House) ... Seiji Osawa Hall at Tanglewood). A Design Advisory Committee was created, I applied and was appointed to it last summer and we are on the way. A bunch of different plans of the site were proposed and in late November we approved the Current Site Plan. This plan is the best possible one - the park will be bigger and better with no traffic through it (currently there is access to the library parking lot), there will be an underground parking garage, there is room for the 95K sq ft, and the high school campus is enhanced.

There are many more hurdles to leap over before the building is started, The old building is a historical building and has to be preserved, neighbors and the school department have to be satisfied, the Neighborhood Conservations District commission has to approve, and the money (more than currently approved) will have to be allocated.

I've been and remain a very active participant. I've learned a lot about libraries and politics, been to >100 meetings, talked to zillions of people, built and maintained the LIbrary 21 web site, lobbied hard for the central square site, been on cable TV (taping for the next one is next week), written memos, made slide shows, sent countless emails. It has been fun and challenging. I want to see this library built.

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As an occasional Cantabrigian not associated with any institution I used the public library a lot. It was great. I loved the unique airy stack floors! They must have been scary for people and led to many practical jokes and loss of secrets. But the facility is definitely way too small so I am glad that this is changing. I am sure you will have a gorgeous result.

My library branch in Peoria is being reno-vated as well. There is something about it being a city facility but on park district land, so they cannot change the envelope. It is very typical to not push the envelope here!

Wow, I hadn't realized that was the main library - I thought it was just a branch.

Apparently, the Copley library has warped me for life.

Oh, sure. Blame it on the Copley Library. Suuuuuure.

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