The Belmont Public Library offers a wealth of resources and services, and demand for these services has risen every year. In FY 2019, the Belmont Public Library had the 10th largest circulation numbers in Massachusetts, 254,833 visitors, and a total circulation number of more than 600,000. On top of that, more than 18,000 children, teens, and adults attended 772 events.
While library staff have done a great job utilizing the limited, inflexible spaces in the current building, the FY 2019 library usage numbers, combined with the 2016 building feasibility study report, illustrate key areas where programing space should be “right sized” or expanded so the needs of the community can be adequately met.
In response to space and programmatic needs, the schematic designs for the new library include:
A larger children’s room with designated programming space – One of the most highly utilized spaces in the Library is the Children’s Room and many of the most successful Library programs are those for children and their caregivers. Unfortunately, the size of the current Children’s Room is insufficient for Belmont’s growing youth population and the room’s layout and amenities are less than ideal for the Library’s youngest patrons. The Library has worked with the MBLC (Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) in an effort to make the Children’s Room compatible with current space and programmatic needs, however the MBLC agrees that the limited children’s room space has been effectively utilized and has no additional recommendations for how to more efficiently use the space.
Schematic designs for the new Library include a larger Children’s Room that has:
- Designated programming space, with necessary facilities for running successful programs. i.e. sinks for arts and crafts programs
- Sufficient seating space for storytimes
- A nursing room
- Designated quiet play areas
- Technology services spaces
- An outdoor “classroom” area
Expansion and improvements to the Children’s Room, as detailed in the schematic design, will enable the Library to adequately accommodate Belmont’s youngest patrons and to provide appropriate resources, programs, and services.
Individual study areas – There is extremely limited distinct space for people to study in the current building. There are a handful of stand-alone desks and there are often people waiting to take advantage of any empty area. This is particularly obvious during after school hours, when many students walk from the high school and middle school to complete homework and to study at the Library. Schematic designs for the new Library include an increase in individual study areas throughout the building.
Small-group study/meeting spaces – There is a great need in town for spaces for groups of citizens, students, and organizations to gather for meetings, to work, and to participate in study sessions. With only two meeting spaces available at the Library, and priority rightly going to library programming, it is extremely difficult to procure a meeting or small group study spot. Groups routinely use the tables throughout the Library, but this often leads to unintentional noise issues and sub-optimal seating situations. Schematic designs for the new Library include eight study rooms, three designated meeting rooms, and other library rooms that can serve as meeting spaces.
Multi-purpose community room with after-hours access – All meeting and event space is at a premium in Belmont. When the Library needs to hold an event that deviates from the usual operating times, there is no way to secure the site and keep event attendees in one area. Schematic designs for the new Library include a multi-purpose event room, with after-hours capability, adjacent restrooms and workrooms, and designated entry and exit points. This ensures that events can be held at times when the Library is not open and will not require that unused portions of the Library be staffed. This space can be utilized not only for Library programs, but also for events held by community organizations and outside groups and, if rental fees are charged, could serve as a potential revenue source.
Additional computer/technology work areas – Town residents rely heavily on the Library’s technology services. Patrons come to the Library to use computers, access Wi-Fi, make copies, learn how to use 3-D printers, utilize databases, take coding and programming classes, and much more. Due to limited computers and available work areas in the building, there is often a lengthy wait to access technology services. Schematic designs for the new Library include additional technology workspaces and additional individual study/work areas for patrons who bring laptops or other electronics to use while at the Library.
Technology/Maker Space/Digital Lab Space for technology instruction and experiential learning – A 21st century library provides services that don’t come solely from books. Libraries offer programs that teach patrons how to utilize technology, supplement curriculum, and learn new technology-related skills. Many technology-focused events offered at the Library are filled as soon as programming schedules are announced and, unfortunately, many patrons do not make it off wait lists. Schematic designs for the new Library include designated technology instruction space, a digital media lab, and a maker space. These improved spaces for technology programming will increase the number of technology-focused programming and events that the Library can offer and will ensure that Library patrons have access to current technology for work, education, and life-long skill advancement.
A larger young adult area/teen space – Space in the Young Adult Room is extremely limited. With only three tables and the smallest book stacks of any area within the Library, not to mention no quiet study or collaborative workspaces, it is a less than ideal place for Belmont’s teens to come after school to do homework or to collaborate on group projects.
Studying doesn’t end at the end of the school day and teens need a safe, supervised place to complete their work and to take advantage of the fantastic young adult programming and services provided by the library. There have been minor renovations to the space, which has resulted in modest improvements, but the fundamental needs of Belmont’s young adult population are not met in the current space.
Schematic designs for the new Library include a Young Adult Room that adequately accommodates the number of teens who routinely visit the Library. The room will have plentiful seating and study spaces available and will be flexible enough to be used for teen-specific programming when needed. The teen space will be located in close proximity to the maker space, the digital media lab, a recording studio, and film/editing areas, where Belmont’s students will acquire skills for school, employment, and beyond.
Outdoor areas that can be used as an extension of the Library – There is a wonderful landscape outside the Library’s doors, but it has not been utilized as an integral part of the Library. In the new Library designs, the outdoor area in re-imagined as program space, meeting space, and reading/quiet space. In 2019, when Covid-19 hit, it became even more apparent that areas outside of buildings must work as an extension of public space. The designs for the outside of the Library greatly expand usable space for patrons.