Letter to the Editor: Misunderstandings About the Lecture Hall

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Renderings of possible plans for the proposed lecture hall as suggested by Robert A. Coffee Architects + Associates, the firm selected for the project by a city committee this week.
— Courtesy RCA / city of Newport Beach

At the risk of boring your readers with our to-and-fro exchanges, I would like to make a couple of observations regarding Mr. McCaffrey’s recent sarcastic comments about the proposed Library Lecture Hall.

1. Mr. McCaffrey’s letter published Oct. 18 mentions an $8 million price tag for the Lecture Hall five separate times before he finally concedes that half the construction costs will come from private funds. That cost sharing arrangement was part of the Library Board’s presentation to the Council on March 12, which Mr. McCaffrey either knew or should have known before he started his letter-writing campaign in the press about the Lecture Hall cost.

2. Mr. McCaffrey apparently did not see the published photo I took of the March 8 Witte Lecture by Ms. Amy Walter in the Friends Room. Indeed, Ms. Walter IS on a riser and is still cut off from view for many attendees on the flat-floored Friends Room. And I guess Mr. McCaffrey’s simplistic and naive suggestion would have us stack riser-upon-riser-upon-riser so that folks sitting up front would crane their necks to look up at the speaker. Think first row at the Lido.

3. The Friends Room hosted over 69,000 participants in 2018 spanning more than 200 events, approximately 1.5 times the number of participants in 2009. Over 1.1 million people visited our Libraries in 2018. Demand is growing for both. Yes, the Library Board views the Lecture Hall as a “need” at this point. While Mr. McCaffrey ridicules our desire to offer high quality facilities to host our programming, we believe the Library campus will be greatly enhanced with a 275 seat Lecture Hall (plus 50 overflow capacity), with sloped fixed comfortable seating and excellent sight lines, with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. Mr. McCaffrey does not believe such a facility merits even one cent of public funding, even though the city will own 100 percent of the Lecture Hall upon completion with some attendant revenues. He has other priorities for the city’s money, but the Library Board believes enhancing the Central Library competes well with any other city project, especially since half the construction cost will in effect be donated to the city.

Paul Watkins
Newport Beach Board of Library Trustees Vice Chair

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