Foothills Library: An Alternative Proposal


Midwestern University's proposal to purchase the Foothills Branch Library building from the city of Glendale is reportedly for use as a medical/dental library and study space.

Midwestern University, a large osteopathic educational institution, has been on a building frenzy for several years. The additions to their property surely must be several hundred thousand additional square feet by now.

If MWU takes over the Foothills Library building, resulting in the drastic downsizing of a widely-loved library (an 80% reduction in inventory and square footage, the remainder to be crammed into several meeting rooms of the Aquatic & Recreation Center, rooms the Aquatic Center would no longer be able to use), it will seriously downgrade Midwestern's reputation and regard in the community. 

Glendale would have to replace a well-stocked, full-service library with an inferior Circle-K sized version, that might eventually be mostly digital. (What kind of budget would need to be appropriated to replace the lost printed books with digital versions? Especially since many publishers charge libraries substantially more for an e-book's licensing fees, sometimes three to four times more, than a printed book costs?)

Everyone loses with that deal.

I suggest, rather, that Midwestern either retrofits some of their recently-added space, or adds square footage to upcoming construction plans, and builds a nice compact mostly-digital library of their own.

Such a library, on Midwestern's current property, would have numerous advantages: It would be more convenient for MWU students to go to. If digital libraries are the wave of the future, surely Midwestern would want to get an early lead on such an upgrade. Culling outdated medical reference material from their current library, and moving to digitize much of the remaining material, would also free up space to use as study areas. And having a more centrally-located library on their current property would mean MWU students wouldn't have to go to the far corner and across the street from their current property to use the Foothills Library building.

And there's this: The remodeling and equipment purchases to install the reduced, mostly-digital, public library into the Aquatics Center space is estimated to cost about a million dollars. (That does not include any budget for increasing digital holdings.) If Midwestern spent triple that amount, three million dollars, to establish a similar mostly-digital library, MWU would still SAVE two million dollars over their five-million dollar offer for the Foothills Library building. Glendale citizens get to keep a full-service library, the Aquatics Center doesn't lose useful space.

If MWU builds its own digital library, everyone wins.

Since such an alternative proposal would save MWU several million dollars, I would like to suggest they make the grand gesture of donating one million dollars of that savings to the Glendale Public Libraries, for upgrades of equipment and providing a larger inventory of digital books. MWU would regain its "Good Neighbor" reputation again, and the MWU library would move towards the digital future. And Glendale's libraries would get to move towards that future along with it.

If that were to happen, everyone really wins.

(This is a slightly revised version of a flyer I handed out to a number of people after the February 11th Library Council meeting at Foothills Library. It's also a more expansive version of the remarks I made when speaking at that meeting.) (I'll be making more posts on this subject. This barely scratches the surface of how much is wrong and foolish about the proposed sale to Midwestern U. Google "Foothills library relocation" for more background. The best coverage on this has been coming from a continuing series of posts by Joyce Clark, a former Glendale City Council member, at joyceclarkunfiltered.com.)

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