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I often joked a couple of years ago that the most avid boosters of constructing a new downtown library were so interested in pushing it through that they’d be happy if it were built without a single shelf in it to hold books.

I mean, to minimize the escalating sticker shock of the colossal building, they had decided to furnish it with furniture from the old building. They had decided to use a cheaper concrete and “value engineer” it. They decided to leave two floors unfinished (never stating why they would want to build those floors then at all). And then they claimed that the new facility could be staffed with the same number of employees from the old facility.

It was pretty clear they were willing to say or do anything to make the project palatable to a cash-strapped city. They just wanted a building to be constructed that they could reasonably call a “library.”

Now they’re trying to actually inject value into the project. I like this. This is better than stripping value out.

Call it a schoobrary! Why didn’t we think of this before?

There are a few potential challenges. For one, schools are not public places. You can’t just go to, say, Lincoln High School and hang out. In fact, to get into Lincoln High, you have to get past a gate and have a good answer for the person there who asks you what you want.

On the other hand, libraries are the exact opposite. They are inherently public places that anyone and everyone can enter. And you are not only allowed to just hang out in libraries, you’re expected to. So would library visitors not be allowed into the top floors of the library?

Maybe, since downtown needs a fire station as much, if not more, than a school, we could put one on the top two floors of the new library instead of a school. We could fashion a kind of ramp for the fire trucks to go up and down every day. Or, as a reader suggested, we could put a football stadium, and maybe a cruise ship terminal along with an aquarium or something on top too.

All of that would add value to the project, after all.

SCOTT LEWIS

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