Last week was election day — and one of the things I was really hoping would pass, Measure B to support building a new library here in Sunnyvale, lost. Lost big, actually: we needed 2/3 and only mustered 59%. That’s a gigantic margin, and I think indicates broadbased opposition to the new building, or at least the $108M price tag.
I’m a bit discouraged by the vote — the library that we have in Sunnyvale is way too small for the population it serves, and is nearly 50 years old. It’s funny in that while I worked on the campaign and am also on the Library Board here, getting a new library doesn’t have a lot of effect on my own life. I tend to buy my books, I tend to access the Internet, well, everywhere. But I think it’s an important public good, so worth supporting.
Anyway, I think that I now believe that the combination of soaring construction costs, a general population who’s losing touch with libraries (and maybe books), and a fiscally conservative city government taken together mean that Sunnyvale may never get a new library. Branches maybe, a bookmobile maybe. But I think this may mark the last opportunity to get a real central library built.
On reflection, I’m not really sure whether I think that’s a bad thing. I know that my personal relationship with books is changing. I’m still reading a lot, of course, but I’m consuming a larger percentage of my content either on the Internet now or in video form. I’m starting to get annoyed that books are so heavy and take so much space in my house, not to mention that they’re a pain to move. I really, really want the eReader that’s coming from Amazon to be useful and have great content. I’ll switch in a flash.
I’m starting to think more about what needs it is that libraries satisfy, and whether we can reasonably expect a building 30 years from now to satisfy needs then. It feels to me like our pace of change is speeding up now, and I hesitate to predict what public spaces for collaboration and learning will look like even 10 years from now. (A visit to university classrooms today is incredibly provocative for me — they’re nothing like they were 15 years ago when I was there.)
So while I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the bond passed, I’m now thinking it might be a good challenge/opportunity to try to escape the constraints of big buildings for libraries. What’s next?
While I’ve got you here: Jim Griffith, Sunnyvale resident and a friend of mine, did an incredible amount to try to get this bond passed. Phone banked every night. Raised a ton of money. Got a campaign headquarters and dozens of endorsements. Put up lawn signs. Wrote op-ed pieces. Went to meeting after meeting after meeting. Jim’s work makes me hopeful that local government can work.