Focus group discusses library's future

An all-in-one hub for the community equipped with not only the latest technology but stocked with high-quality programs, small-sized meeting rooms and shelves of resources for academics — that was the collective opinion amongst residents who attended a focus group discussion at the Trumbull Library last Thursday, July 16.
Almost 90 people packed into the building’s community room and 35 community members spoke during the 90-minute session, which was led by Leslie and Alan Burger of Library Development Solutions — the firm hired to create a strategic plan for the long-term future of the Trumbull Library System, including its current Quality Street location and its Fairchild-Nichols branch located on Huntington Turnpike.
“What do you want this library to be like?” Leslie asked the crowded room before listening to suggestions.
“There’s no set motion right now — no mindset of ‘we’re going to end up doing this,’” she reassured the room. “It’s really tabula rasa at this point, and that’s why we’re doing this — we want to get the community’s input about the future.”
A majority of those who raised their hands to speak were in favor of the Quality Street location and adding more spaces to alleviate the library’s current parking problem; others were adamant about updating the 40-year-old building if it were to end up staying in the same place.
One of the recurring themes amongst speakers was the uncertainty surrounding the future of the printed word.
“We don’t know the future of the book — it’s hard for us to predict the future of the book,” said Carol Elstein.
“Moving the library would be a travesty,” she added. “People are accustomed to it being here, and I know a lot of people who would love to see the library stay right here.”
Citing that example later in the meeting, a female speaker said she hardly ever reads books in print anymore.
“I resisted go to the e-book for years,” she told the room. “But the selection of e-books has expanded and I keep find there’s not enough choices out there in print.”
This sparked a brief discussion about the library’s Overdrive System, which provides e-books for users.
Hour change
Marshall Marcus of Stonehouse Road spoke next at the meeting and stressed that the library expand its hours.
“It shouldn’t be closing at 8 p.m. — it should close at 9 p.m. at the least,” he said. “Maybe open it later at 10 a.m.”
Marcus added that he’d like to see the building stay open on Sundays in the summer. The library currently closes its doors Sundays from the middle of May to the beginning of September.
As for updating the physical space of the library, he said that the focus should be on “making the building softer.”
“It’s out of date and harsh,” Marcus said. “But it needs to stay here.”
Another female speaker agreed about making it a “softer place with more parking.”
“It needs to be more of a community center,” she said.

Less restrictions
A few citizens spoke about allowing the library to become less structured in the future — a move away from the accustomed rigidity of library culture.
“Every Saturday is library day with the kids,” said Greg Tanno of Woodridge Circle. “It’s a tradition we love to do together but one thing I’d like to see in the future is less rules and more inclusiveness.
“I’d like to see it grow away from being the library I grew up with and become something that’s more engaging to the community at large.”
One of the suggestions about making the library more engaging came from a female speaker who wanted the library’s to start playing movies in its community room, and one day host a film festival in the building.
“Bring back the film programs,” she said. “But don’t move the building.”
Read more about the library focus group meeting in Thursday’s print edition of the Trumbull Times.