Those of you who attended March 17th’s St. Louis County Library Board of Trustees meeting (or read about it in The Call) saw how little Board President Lynn Beckwith cares about the public’s opinion regarding Lewis and Clark Branch Library and the Facilities Master Plan as whole. So after more than a year and a half of direct appeals to the library system’s administration, we’re shifting our efforts and taking it to the top: County Executive Charlie Dooley. So far Dooley has declined to intervene in this matter, despite the fact that the board – which he appointed – has proven so hostile to the very public it purports to serve.
Tell Charlie Dooley (firstname.lastname@example.org) to step up and demand an honest public dialogue about the implementation of SLCL’s Facilities Master Plan! County resident or not, your opinion on this issue matters. If you don’t have time to write your own letter, we’ve provided one below for your use in part or as a whole. It is of the utmost importance that Dooley hears from as many concerned citizens as possible, so please act now.
Many thanks for your help and dedication. We couldn’t do this without you!
Dear County Executive Dooley,
I’m writing to express my support for the preservation of the historic Lewis and Clark Branch Library, as well as my dismay over the lack of public input solicited during this process.
I ask you, as the county’s highest-ranking elected official, to speak out against this demolition. Just because plans to replace the historic Lewis and Clark Branch have progressed to this point does not mean that they are inevitable. St. Louis County has the opportunity to embrace both its history and its future by preserving this incredible building; please don’t stand aside while inertia propels us towards a mistake that can never be undone.
The St. Louis County Library Board of Trustees claims a mandate for a new library building at this location because of the passage of Proposition L, yet many who voted for this initiative were unaware of the Facilities Master Plan’s specifics. Only minimal focus group studies contributed to the plan’s formation; only three articles in the Post-Dispatch mentioned Lewis and Clark’s demolition in the seven months prior to November 2012’s vote; no public meetings were held on site (or anywhere else) to inform patrons of the demolition; and Proposition L’s ballot language did not specify which branches would be affected. The Facilities Master Plan was indeed available on SLCL’s website, but patrons needed a reason to look for it in the first place, and that reason was denied to them because SLCL failed to make a good faith effort to inform Lewis and Clark’s patrons of its intentions. After the proposition’s passage, then-SLCL Director Charles Pace publicly stated that the Facilities Master Plan was not set in stone and that public input would be sought concerning its implementation. Instead, SLCL has been hostile to the public and turned its back on the very people that it purports to serve. Board President Lynn Beckwith’s treatment of taxpayers at March 17th’s board meeting made that abundantly clear.
Beyond this blatant lack of respect for citizens, Lewis and Clark’s demolition is inherently wasteful. Four other SLCL branches, none of which has any architectural significance, are slated for renovation and addition. Yet this option was never considered for Lewis and Clark, which is the only architecturally significant branch in the system and one of the most architecturally significant buildings in the region. Why? The Facilities Master Plan states that the building is in excellent condition, with significant investments such as a new roof, parking lot, and HVAC system made in the past ten years alone. Its existing 16,000 square foot interior could be renovated and easily expanded with a 4,000 square foot addition to reach the 20,000 square feet that SLCL wants for this location. Moreover, according to SLCL’s own construction estimates, this would save taxpayers nearly $3 million if pursued instead of demolition and new construction. That is too large a savings to ignore, and those resources could surely be used to benefit library patrons in other ways than needlessly pouring them into new construction.
Renovating and adding to the existing Lewis and Clark Branch would still give patrons the new, 21st century library that they were promised and which they deserve. Look at the improvements to Central Library downtown – architects were able to take a 1912 building and turn it into a fabulous, state-of-the-art facility that feels as modern as any new construction. Look at the renovation and addition to the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park – architects were able to seamlessly blend a contemporary wing into the existing 1904 building in a way that makes the entire institution feel new. Both projects have attracted national attention for excellence and increased attendance, precisely because they incorporated 21st century design into significant historic buildings. Why deprive the residents of North County the same opportunity?