Letter to the Editor: Library is Ideal Location for Lecture Hall

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In suggesting alternative sites for library lectures, Bob McCaffrey and his followers miss a most important point. Those lectures would not be at the library. The mission of library support groups is to bring people to the library, to congregate before and after lectures surrounded by the stacks at the library, to stress the importance of our library system, and to encourage support of our libraries by having our Libraries become part of peoples’ cultural lives. In short, to retain the libraries as “the cultural, educational, and informational heart” of our community.

These support groups put on programming to educate and entertain our residents at the library, all at no cost to the city. But the demand for programming has outgrown the existing facilities at the library. The support groups are not looking for new venues to present programming, they are looking for a better venue at the library to do so. And it is not just eight events per year. The library hosted well over 200 events attended by over 72,000 attendees during the library’s last fiscal year, many of which could have used larger facilities, and all of which could have used better facilities.

Mr. McCaffrey fails to appreciate that other venues could have serious scheduling conflicts with their core uses, not to mention that library staff that assists the support groups would not be available for off-site events. Would Lido Theater be able to make their remodeled theater available for large chunks of time on Friday nights? And what about inevitable conflicts with the demanding needs before, during, and after the lengthy Film Festival at the Lido? All of the suggested alternative locations seem sensible until you look at the facts. They are not at the library, some are undersized, some are already overbooked, some are for school or senior programming, not library programming and all would cost money to rent and staff.

These support groups raised $700,000 last year with contributions of over 1,000 generous donors and volunteered many hundreds of hours to plan and execute programming for the library. $700,000 is a lot of money and dedication. Their request for a more workable facility at the Central Library should be seriously considered, not subjected to serial suggestions of unworkable locations away from the library. Moreover, these groups have from the beginning said they will help the city by raising half of the Lecture Hall construction costs.

Paul Watkins
Newport Beach
Board of Library Trustees Vice Chair

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