OPINION: Maybe Meriden library should remain at the mall

When I heard the Meriden Public Library was going to set up shop at the mall as a temporary spot while the lots of money renovation is underway at Miller Street, I thought, why not? All sorts of different things are at the mall these days.

It took a while to consider the mall location could play a more lasting role. When I read Clevell Roseboro II’s comments about it that idea began to look like a bright one.

As the R-J’s Michael Gagne reported recently, the library is open for library business at the Lewis Avenue mall, at the former Old Navy spot near TJ Maxx and Dick’s Sporting Goods. That’s my favorite location at the mall, thanks to enthusiasm when it comes to sports.

So, why not stay there, even after the renovation and expansion at the real home of the library is completed?

Roseboro, the library’s director, called using the mall an “innovative concept for public libraries.” I agree, and it’s a terrific innovative concept. The mall is being used for purposes we once would have considered a strange fit, as in medical offices, but trends are changing that landscape. If malls are accommodating uses other than retail, why can’t that include public libraries?

One example of how effective this can be was included in the R-J story. Following a library Board of Trustees meeting at the mall, Thomas Welsh, chair of the Library Building Committee, saw the excitement of a young child as she was peeking through a library window. “The little girl was just wide-eyed,” he recalled. “It was just heartening.” Imagine. Lure the kids who are at the mall, and say if you really want to see something head to Miller Street.

There are other possibilities. You may recall that one of the disappointments of this transition period was the news that the Friends of the Meriden Public Library bookstore will not remain open while the renovation and expansion project is underway. It may not be a viable option now to set some kind of bookstore operation up at the mall, but why couldn’t that be a possibility for the future?

I know. There are all sorts of reasons to say no. There always are. City leaders might not find amenable a mall location operating once the main library is reopened. But this project is going to take at least a year, which is plenty of time to see whether experience can provide a powerful argument.

“This is unexplored territory where we are,” said Roseboro, in the R-J story. “It’s going to take about three to five months to find our rhythm. It’s experimental. But I can say with confidence, the goal is, if it works, we will find a way to maintain the space, even when the new library opens.”

That’s optimistic. But it’s optimism worth admiring.

In the meantime, we get to see how things go. So far, the answer appears to be, very well. Joan Edgerly, Library Board of Trustees chair, told me she was pleased by how bright and inviting the area is.

You can expect more wide-eyed youngsters. “I really missed the kids while we were closed,” Cathy Woodworth a technical assistant in the library children’s department, told the R-J. 

One day we may find that public libraries and shopping malls are a natural fit. Meriden now gets to be at the helm of steering toward that potential future.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.



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