|Casper Journal Articles
From the Natrona County Public Library
What I Learned on my Busman's Holiday
By Bill Nelson, Director
May 16, 2007
A “busman’s holiday” is a vacation during which one engages in activity that is similar to one's work. Some believe the phrase is derived from post-WW II Europe when London transport officials created “travel holidays” for its employees to other European countries.
During the past four months I have had the privilege to conduct a busman’s holiday by visiting over 25 public libraries in California. As the Library Board begins to consider its long-term plans for a new library building we thought it wise to look at a number of recently constructed buildings. Here are some of the trends that I discovered:
Public libraries need lots of natural lighting. Casper has plenty of sunny days and we should incorporate this resource into any building design. A good example is the Carmel Mountain Branch in San Diego with plenty of glass exterior walls.
New libraries have many meeting rooms of various sizes. It is not uncommon for libraries to have 15 or more such rooms of assorted sizes (e.g. 5 people, 15-20 people, 150-200 people). NCPL currently has one meeting room. Smaller meeting rooms tend to have glass walls for good lighting and staff visibility. The Alameda Library in the Bay Area has done a great job in this area.
Libraries should be co-located with other high-traffic generators such as recreation centers or near multiple schools. Good examples include the Haskett Branch in Anaheim and the Saratoga Library in Santa Clara .
Newer libraries tend to incorporate themes into their architecture and furniture. The Point Loma library, not surprisingly, has a nautical theme including a sailboat that dominates its first floor and a real Navy submarine’s periscope in their Youth Department to complement the surfboard tables! Another library is located in the middle of an apricot orchard. You can guess their theme. Another library uses the Wizard of Oz as their children’s department theme. What theme should NCPL consider for a new building?
Most new libraries include art in their construction budget. On the high side, Cerritos Library has a $1 million Chihuly glass sculpture. Most have theme or literacy-related art throughout.
Some libraries are being built using Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria. Such “green” designs incorporate environmental impact during construction and long-term building operations. One library I visited used recycled blue jean material as wall insulation! Another used a computer-controlled HVAC system. Still another had a staff shower to encourage staff bicycle commutes.
It seems many patrons desire a coffee shop in their library. My conversations with library vendors indicate that these ventures tend to be unprofitable and libraries have difficulty finding replacement baristas. One library now asks volunteers to operate its coffee shop. Remember, Barnes & Noble makes their profit on books, not the coffee they sell!
The Cerritos Library, located just 15 miles from Disneyland, also has an over-the-top children’s department. It is more of an Exploratorium than library, plus it is dark! While I would not recommend this for Natrona County citizens, it is definitely something to see.
In addition to many great ideas, I also observed several design “horror stories” on my busman’s holiday. We can learn important lessons from these observations as well, but that is another story for another time.
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