If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s the motto for Norman officials and residents who want a new and bigger public library.
Last May, a $49.5 million bond issue for a new facility was defeated in municipal elections by a mere 280 votes. Just five months later, library supporters have unveiled a new and improved plan, according to The Norman Transcript. A scaled-down proposal would build a new main library just north of Andrews Park, but without the attached parking garage of the previous proposal. In addition, two small branch libraries would be built on the east and west sides of town. The current library, built in 1966, is at the south edge of Andrews Park in the central portion of the city.
The Norman City Council reportedly has bought the land, previously an old granary, north of the park. After the Sept. 23 council meeting, Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said that if the land were not used for a new library, it could be used for storm water drainage, park expansion or other municipal needs.
The land purchase helps to counter another reservation expressed about the defeated May proposal; many residents, according to a survey of 1,000 people conducted by the Partnership for Norman’s Progress, wanted to know exactly where construction would take place, according to The Transcript.
The way I see it, there’s no question that a new library is needed. The current library is adjacent to the city’s municipal complex, which virtually guarantees that parking is hard to find during much of the day. More importantly, the city’s population has doubled since the facility was built. The public library also serves as a community center, where meeting rooms can be used for activities by a wide range of organizations.
While Norman also is home to the vast Bizzell Memorial Library on the University of Oklahoma campus, only people with a direct tie to the University ” primarily students, faculty, staff, and retirees ” and purchasers of a $50-per-year “borrowers permit” may check out books or other materials from the OU library. Thus, the majority of city residents are excluded.
In fact, many of the people eligible to use the resources of Bizzell often visit the public library as well. It is easily accessible and maintains an assortment of books, magazines and electronic media for children and teens, as well as popular fiction, nonfiction and entertainment for all ages.
Some details for the proposed new library have not yet been determined, including the final projected cost or when the revised proposal will be presented to voters again. My fingers are crossed for the earliest possible opportunity to vote “Yes” one more time.
To me, a public library provides the heart of a city. As in the analogy with the human heart, good circulation contributes to good health, growth and continuing renewal for communities as well as people. Norman and its citizens of all ages deserve no less.
Murphy is a freelance writer living in Norman.