September 8, 2006

Moline's new library a multi-million dollar disappointment

Have you been to Moline's highly touted new library yet? I suggest you go.

The spanking new facility opened on August 31st, but I was only able to finally check it out yesterday.

In my opinion, it's got all the warmth of a 60's era airport terminal. It's vast, cold, confusing, poorly planned and prepared, with evidence of over-spending on some items and skimping on others.

For starters, the first thing I noticed upon entering the rear door was that the ventilation system is far too powerful for the building, which results in a rush of air out of the building so strong that it literally opens and holds open a set of heavy double doors as long as the outer door is open.



On top of that, there's a high pitched whine like a distant tornado that's noticeable everywhere in the building and which rises and falls depending on if doors are being opened or not. Very annoying, and one would suspect the result of some sort of engineering error which hopefully can be fixed.

I next noticed a meeting room through an open door off the barren hallway. (see above) It's nicely appointed with wooden cabinets and a built in overhead projector and screen. But what caught my eye were twelve... one dozen... brand new high-end office chairs, specifically, what looked like Herman Miller Aeron chairs.



I'm familiar with these chairs and have priced them before. The Aeron chair has been the ultimate office chair since its inception, and a status symbol for executives for many years, due to its styling, comfort and high cost. Their unique design has inspired a million knock-offs though, and I thought that surely these must be some less expensive copies, as even the fakes are pretty darn expensive.

And I couldn't believe that any committee in charge of this project would ever dream of actually ordering a dozen real Aeron chairs. In light of the city being deeply in the red and the massive effort to raise money for the project, to literally blow money like that would be irresponsible at best.

The door to the meeting room was wide open so I walked in, wanting to see just how it felt to sit in one of these famous chairs, even though I was sure it was a cheaper imitation. I took a seat and it was very comfortable indeed, with the open mesh fabric and high tech suspension system, padded arms, and their highly polished aluminum frames.

But I had to know if they were actual Aeron chairs. I turned one over and looked, and to my shock, I saw a little label that proved that they were indeed, brand new Herman Miller Aeron chairs! And a dozen of them to boot.

But as I continued on my way into the library, I saw that another meeting room held dozens of Herman Miller side chairs, or basic chairs. These too, are very expensive. What were they thinking? I counted 50 of them in this room alone.



In the far corner of the room under a cover is the infamous baby grand piano, the one that the "Friends of the Moline Library" group decided to blow all their hard earned money on. After all their efforts to raise money over the years to support the library, and out of all the potential uses for the money which would help out the library, such as purchasing books, more computers, furnishings, decorations, childrens programs, etc, they decided instead to spend $18,000 on a piano for one of the meeting rooms.

What were they thinking? Some have noted that one of the members is a music teacher whose husband tunes pianos. But still, the decision is pretty inexplicable.


But back to those chairs.

I did some checking when I got home and found this site, which guarantees the lowest price on these chairs. I found to my shock that the polished aluminum frame option actually adds $250 to the cost of each chair. Not a sign that whoever ordered them was trying to economize.

And care to take a wild guess as to how much just one of these chairs go for, assuming that it's the stripped down "basic" model?

Just how much would you pay for one chair like the dozen bought by the library for one meeting room?

Would a couple hundred per chair sound reasonable? Guess again.

$500.00?? Nope, you're not even warm.

Try $948.00. ($699 + $249 for the polished aluminum frame)

Yep, you read that right, nearly a thousand dollars A PIECE.

Multiply that by a dozen and you get $11,376.00.

I have no idea if these dozen Aeron chairs were the only ones in the library, nor what sort of volume discount they surely got for purchasing both these chairs as well as dozens of side chairs, but cut that price by a 10% volume discount and you're still talking about $853.00 a pop. For a single chair.

Even assuming that discount, the dozen chairs would have cost Moline taxpayers $10,236 to furnish one small meeting room alone.

And that's assuming they're the "basic" model. If they're the "highly adjustable" models, (I didn't check) it would raise the price to a whopping $1150 a piece, (again adding for the custom frame) or nearly $14000 for a dozen. Knock 10% off of that and that's over $12,400.00 just for the dozen chairs in the room.

Then then there's the 50 + plastic and metal Herman Miller side chairs. How much do they go for?

Well, they're a bargain at $550.00 A PIECE if bought individually. Let's assume a 10% discount and lower that to $495.00. For the 50 chairs in the one room alone, that's a cool $24,750.

This isn't accounting for the many stools in the coffee shop (which is not open.) or the dozens of side chairs in the main library which would likely add a few more tens of thousands to the tab.

Assuming a 10% volume discount, the chairs in the two meeting rooms alone come to $34,986.00, or nearly $35,000.00.

The library is over budget and they're begging citizens for more funding. Yet this is the way they spent tax dollars? No wonder the city is in the red and has the highest tax rate in the Quad Cities.

$35,000.00 for 62 chairs and a brand new $18,000 piano? That's nearly $53,000 spent on furnishings for just two smallish meeting rooms that most of the public will never see.

When you're spending other people's money, might as well go whole hog, eh? It's hard to imagine that equally sturdy and attractive seating couldn't have been found for much less. Then they may have been able to spend the savings on, oh.... books perhaps?

One wonders if some local office supply company execs are large political contributors. That might explain why they overspent so wildly. Nah, that would never happen.

As mentioned above, one thing I've been anxious to check out is the new coffee/snack shop. It was something new and promised to be a real improvement over the old library.

But it's not even open, with no clue as to if or when it might be.

A sign on the door says it's closed because the lights haven't been "adjusted" yet. But another source said that they haven't been able to find a vendor who was willing to run the place. Huh? Call me naive, but shouldn't they have found someone to run it BEFORE it opened? Will it ever open? What's going on?

I've since found out from the City of Moline website that the coffee shop is slated to open "in September" with a grand opening scheduled for the 30th.

The appearance of the building in general is deadly dull and rather inhospitable.

The front of the library facing 41st street is generic and as dull as dishwater with a bland light brown brick facade that looks for all the world like a non-descript warehouse somewhere, but much less interesting than the front of most old factories. The bricks themselves have no texture or variation in color. It's as if the architect was purposely striving to make it as dull and uninspiring as possible.

But a large part of the building is clad from top to bottom in decorative and very expensive all copper cladding in two different patterns. But this very expensive detail is hidden on only the northeast portion of the building, essentially out of sight to anyone, and certainly invisible from the street as well as to anyone entering the main entrance.



Perhaps this pricey architectural detail might be more visible once they tear down the perfectly comfortable and inviting library building next door that this monstrosity is replacing.

It's truly as if the building is placed the wrong way on its site, with the intersting part hidden in the rear, and the deadly dull end facing the street.

One of the charms of the old branch library was that it was tucked into a wooded area, designed to take advantage of many old oaks and blend into a natural setting. The view from the children's section seemed to bring the woods right into the building through the trademark huge bubble windows. It was as if you were actually sitting in the woods. (with fairies and wise wizards too, no doubt)

If this new building had been turned around, the unique copper details would have been featured on the street side, while the gigantic windows in the library would have opened onto the soothing woods behind the building, rather than overlooking a busy intersection, empty field, and an animal hospital.

Apparently no thought was given to incorporating the wooded setting.

Another ill-conceived feature is that the book return slots are all the way in the rear of the building. One has to drive all the way to the back and around a tight circle to access the two slots, which are now built into the building itself.

This isn't a bad idea, except that there's no awning to protect from the weather, and the slots appear to be located so high up on the wall that everyone but those who drive Hummers or perhaps semi tractors will have to reach far in the air to reach them. Either that, or have to actually get out of their car. Again, poor planning on someone's part.

The enormous entrance foyer pretty much sets the tone for the entire place. It's cavernous, utterly barren, and you have no idea where to go. You almost wonder if you're in the wrong place, or maybe the library's not open yet. Despite it's enormous size, there's nothing there at all, only a series of easels with cardboard signs listing the big money donors to the project.

I imagine most morgues are more inviting than this.

It's never occurred to anyone apparently that visitors might need some simple directions, seeing as it's brand new to everyone and they have no idea where to go.

There's no signs whatsoever. Nothing. Not even any "Welcome to your new libary" signs. Just the displays touting the large donors.

But of course, once inside there were helpful signs and instructive handouts and fliers available as you walked in, as well as large prominent informational signs showing the floor plan and directing people to where the various sections were located. Otherwise, patrons would be left to wander about aimlessly not knowing where to go, or how to find anything in this new and bewildering facility.

Or at least you'd hope the above was the case. But you'd be mistaken. There's nothing. No signs, no pamplets, no nothing.

Want to find out how the new and confusing place is laid out? Looking for adult non-fiction? Then spend an hour wandering around aimlessly. That's pretty much your only option, unless you can find staff and pester them with questions every few minutes.

There are NO signs anywhere to indicate where, for instance, the reference section is, or where fiction or biographies are now found, except on the shelves themselves, but of course, once you see them, you're already there.

You'd think that at least there'd be some sort of overhead permanent signage to indicate where the major sections were at the very least. But you'd be wrong. There's not any attempt whatsoever to provide directional signs, not even something as simple as a sign indicating what is located on the ground floor and what is upstairs.

The new patron is left standing confronting a vast warehouse with no clue where anything is.

Short of paper on the ends of the shelves with their Dewey decimal contents hastily scrawled with magic marker, there's no clue as to where anything's located.

Nothing whatsoever was done to aid the public in finding their way round or to help them get acquainted with this new building. You walk in, and good luck. You're on your own.

Not surprisingly, the shelves appear pretty barren. They were obviously going for room to grow and expand as time goes by, and boy, do they ever have a lot of room. The shelves are only partially filled, and the entire place has a rather bleak and depressing aura, almost as if half the books have been stolen or removed. It's not clear whether they're moving in, or closing up.

Rather than having the stacks in a compact area that is easy to browse, they're now spread out so far and wide that they should give out electric scooters to patrons just to get around. Be prepared to hike a long way. The elderly will find this new place very hard to navigate.



Another thing I expected was some semi-private, cozy areas to enjoy a book, as you would obviously expect of a new library. Instead, there's vast areas of floor to ceiling glass windows under which are scattered overstuffed chairs which are no doubt comfortable.

But rather than sitting in a little nook, you're sitting under the glare of intense sunlight, as if you're reading on the sidewalk outside. You're right out in the open with no dividers or cubicle at all, as if you were reading in an overstuffed chair at the center of a parking lot.

It's truly like a warehouse with only stark square columns breaking up the open floor space. It's a bleak building inside and out, made even more so by the use of stainless steel railings and minimalist styling thoughout. No soft materials are visible at all, other than the upholstered chairs scattered around the outer walls. Everything else is featureless steel, glass, plastic, or concrete.





After several minutes and walking what seemed like a half mile to figure out that the adult section was upstairs, someone actually asked if I was finding what I was lookin for. A girl who was replacing returned books on the shelves, probably the least paid staff member, helpfully asked if she could help me find anything. There was a book which was listed in the online catalog as being on the shelf which wasn't there. She tried to find it in the newly returned books with no luck. She was the only staffer who was actually on the floor.

I finally found several books that looked interesting and carried them all over to the large staff desk area upstairs, only to find that I'd have to lug my load of books downstairs to check out. What purpose this large island desk with several computer monitors and two librarians behind it serves is unclear.

Once downstairs, I ended up using one of the self checkout stations, which of course, is completely unmarked. I had no idea they even had them. There's no overhead sign pointing them out, nothing to direct folks to them, and nothing to indicate they even exist.

I expected to have to wait in line to have an actual person check the books out, as in the past, and wandered up to what I assumed were some check out stations which weren't in use at the time, primarily to find a place to put down the heavy armload of books I'd been holding for about an hour and rest before I had to stand in line to check out.

It was only then that I happened to look down and notice a tiny label taped to the small counter. It said to place the bar code "like this". Huh? What was that all about?

After looking things over, I noticed a red laser pattern on the desk and thought I'd try to stick a book under it. Well what do you know? It actually checked out the book!

I'd found it completely by accident, and figured out how to use it by accident as well. But hey, I guess that's what they expect new patrons to do. Heaven forbid they'd have any signs or instructions up. It's only a new and completely unfamiliar library after all.

I guess it was a miracle that someone, probably only after being bugged unmercifully, finally decided to put a little piece of paper showing people which way to orient the bar code on the counter, which after all, was the only clue as to it's purpose. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known it was a self check-out station at all.

The self check-out system is pretty cool, and will no doubt save time. But I can't help but wonder if half the books in the library are going to end up being stolen, as all a person has to do is walk up to a self service island, check out perhaps one book out of many, or simply mimic checking out the books, and just walk out. There's no apparent system for ensuring that only checked out material leaves the building, unless there's some hidden tag on each book and a scanner at the door that I didn't notice. Hopefully, there's such a system in place.

If not, it seems to be an invitation to having books, videos, DVDs, CDs, and other media walking out the door with those who would rather borrow books and other material without a due date, otherwise known as thieves.

It's now possible to spend hours in this rather inhospitable and futuristic library without having any human contact at all. How nice.... I guess.

Once I'd checked out my books and was about to head for the door, I noticed a small pile of slick and expensively produced full color booklets that looked like some corporate annual report. Inside were the floor plans I'd tried in vain to find, (though with no explanation as to where anything is) as well as info and statistics on the library and lists of all the board members and fundraising campaign members.

It notes that the library was suppossed to cost $12.5 million, of which the City of Moline kicked in $10 million. They're now trying to meet a $2.5 million fundraising goal from the public.

The construction cost: $9,834,284
Furnishing and equipment: $1,672,321
Professional Fees: $758,862
Contingency: (huh? what's that, the coffee fund?) $234,533
Total Cost: $12,500,000
minus Moline General Obligation Bonds of $10,000,000
leaves $2.5 million to raise.

In 2004, Moline property taxes accounted for fully 92% of the library's revenue.
In that same year, only 12% was spent on actual library materials, while personnel costs were listed as consuming 70% of the budget.

It's emblematic of this library that they'd put these expensively produced booklets at the check out stand, which is the last place a patron stops before leaving. That pretty much sums up the entire place and project quite nicely. Spending money as if the publically funded library were some corporation flush with cash, then implementing it very poorly with little thought towards the actual library users.

I was very hopeful for this project, and truly looked forward to it with excitement and high hopes. I felt the project was ill-conceived and was dubious as to the need for such an extensive project to begin with, but I truly hoped that I'd be so impressed that I would feel it was all worth it, or at least feel that it wasn't a very expensive mistake.

Others, of course, may love the place, and I hope that's the case.

But as you can tell, I'm sorely disappointed, both with the design of the building itself, the thoughtless way there was absolutely nothing done to ensure that people felt welcome and were able to find their way around the unfamiliar place, and the obvious fact that someone in charge thought nothing of blowing thousands of dollars for top of the line seating, which only causes one to wonder what other extravagances there are which aren't as visible.

There's no doubt that the job of moving into the new building, getting things up and running, and working out the thousands of inevitable problems was an enormous undertaking. Just getting things running and functioning likely took a tremendous amount of work by many dedicated people, and I'm sure things will improve with time.

But one hopes that once the initial period of adjustment is over, they can begin to concentrate on trying to make this very expensive place less inhospitable and more user friendly, though the building will never be inviting, much less as comfortable and welcoming as the building it's replaceing.

It's still inexplicable to me why they didn't choose to expand the former library, rather than trash it and build this monstrosity from scratch.

I trust that as the library becomes more "lived in", things will improve, and I plan to try to like it, despite the bad first impression.

We'll see.

Let us know your impresssion of the library.

39 Comments:

At 9/08/2006 6:59 AM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Ouch...

Hopefully they're still in the process of getting signage and such put up, or something.

Just out of curiousity, have you been to the new Davenport branch library?

And are you guys just now getting self check scanners? We've had them for at leat 10 years over here. The way the Davenport library ones work is that when you lay the book on the flat surface, it deactivates the security tag, so you don't set off the alarm as you walk out the door. Hopefully they've got something like that over there.

 
At 9/08/2006 8:00 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

QCI,

In discussing the Moline library with a friend, they mentioned the new Davenport branch. Is it nice?

I rarely go to the Davenport libraries, especially since it's so easy to simply have a book from another library shipped to the closest library to you.

When the new Davenport branch was brought up, my friend did mention that Davenport has had the automatic check out system for some time, which I wasn't aware of, especially that they'd had it for 10 years.

The auto check out thing is a big deal on this side of the river. Takes us a while to catch up, evidently.

I mentioned the security concerns and the friend said that in Davenport, as well as many other libraries, there were little gizmos inserted into the spines of the books somehow, which are, as you say, deactivated when checked out.

I'd suppose that there is some process which re-activates them upon return, as well as scanners at the exits which prevents material from being stolen.

If so, that's a superior system than the old one as far as preventing loss of materials.

But I'm not sure there are any security gizmos in the Moline books, as all that's done at check out is scanning the bar code sticker on the cover. But perhaps the thing is deactivating something and I just didn't notice.

I also didn't see any scanners at the door, but again, I wasn't looking for them.

I've accidentally left the library carrying a stack of books without checking out before, and it made me realize how easy it would be to for someone to steal books, or more likely videos, DVDs or CDs.

A good security system would more than pay for itself over time, not to mention avoid the loss of valuable materials. When someone takes something from a libary, they're really taking it away from thousands of people all at once.

 
At 9/08/2006 9:20 AM, Blogger IHG said...

Nice work Dope, lengthy review, but nice work.

The finances behind this show government at its worst. We waste money with little regard for where it comes from. If the waste is so massive on a simple library, consider what it is on the Federal level.

But no big deal, all we need to do is tax more...

 
At 9/08/2006 9:56 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

If you say so IHG.

Thanks for the compliment. And I hear that ritalin and dexadrine can help ADD.

In the meantime, perhaps you should stick with USA Today or something in that sort of short attention span format.

The post was long, probably too long to try to read in a rush before work.

It was even longer, believe it or not. I'm just not too good at cutting things. I guess I could've pared it down to, "The new library sucks", but somehow it wouldn't be the same. (or maybe it would?)

 
At 9/08/2006 10:28 AM, Blogger theheadusher said...

DOPer,

You seem seriously depressed. You should check into the Robert Young Center.

Only a complete fool can find fault with a beautiful new library. If you don't like the setting, perhaps enjoy you'll one of the books. Why don't you do us all a favor and move back home to Iowa.

 
At 9/08/2006 10:51 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Um... OK. I'll get right on all your helpful suggestions.

Not quite sure what leads you to the curious idea that I'm depressed, but... oh well.

Are you sure you're the headusher? That was incoherant even by your usual standard of gibberish.

But I guess when someone has no regard for the value of taxpayer funds, like yourself, there's never any cause for concern about projects like this. After all, you and contributors get a nice slice, and everyone's happy so what's not to like?

People should be unquestioningly grateful. Why even mention cost or waste, right? And for heaven's sake, no one should ever look too closely at anything, should they?

Sorry. It must be upsetting to have to face something other than the usual backslapping BS that usually accompanies these projects.

Just curious, have you even been to the library yourself?

For that matter, do you even read books?

 
At 9/08/2006 12:03 PM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

Nice review of the library and I agree with many of your comments. I too noticed signage was lacking. But, like many other new buildings, I'm sure that these things will be taken care of in time. Everything I've read stated that the "grand" opening was at the end of September and I'm sure there is still work to be done.

As far as the coffee shop not being open, I understand that the original operator backed out at the last moment. And I believe the Bettendorf libary has had 3 or 4 operators since they opened it.

All of that being said, and one who thought that it wouldn't have cost as much money to put the library in King Plaza, I'm still impressed with the place in spite of some of its current shortcomings.

 
At 9/08/2006 6:57 PM, Blogger Milton said...

The place is train wreck or should a say plane wreck because the thing looks like an airport. Thank you for putting all the facts and ACTUALITY about this albatross the taxpayers have to look at and pay for.

You failed to mention how the Children’s area feels like a morgue. The old library was a warm place for our children to go. This, this, this, what ever; makes kids feel like they are in a hospital getting shots.

Shalom,

--- Prof. Leland Milton Goldblatt

 
At 9/08/2006 9:44 PM, Blogger Rawk Eyelund said...

I'm glad I live in Rock Island.

 
At 9/09/2006 3:11 PM, Blogger Bob Thomas said...

It know that you wantd the old library and so did I. I do think that you have gone overboard on your assesment. I know that you probably need to get off to the early bird lunch at Bishops but take the time to read this. First off if you get lost in there then you have a mental deficiancy or something. If you don't know how to self check then You must have your wife, mother, or husband do all of your shopping. The supermarkets, Airports, and Home stores all have self check and they don't have people simply walking out of the store with items anymore than they ever have. Your getting lost thing, not able to find your way around is realy odd and it makes me wonder if you get out much. I agree that the building sits the wrong way but I have faith that the people in charge thought so also. I assume that there was a reason for the way that it is turned as I have some faith in my leaders. You have to give people a little more credit than you give them. By the way, have you priced chairs. I don't know what your arrangements are but I have a house and have been furnishing it for some time. I have kids and people over so I my chairs and couch sees some use. Chairs that will last cost lots of money. I think if you think that you can get a chair for two hundred dollars that will have thousands of hours of use and who knows what kind of people in them then you don't use your furniture and probably need to take the plastic off. You need to spend some money or it will not last for anytime at all. I have bought furniture from IKEA and Target and American and you get what you pay for. The beatifull chairs at the old Moline library were very high end when they were purchased I am sure that you would have complained about them as well when they were new. I think that because they were high end is what you liked about them. I will miss the cozy feel of the old library,however I sat by the fire in the new library with a cup of coffee that I had made myself and brought with me and enjoyed the library in a very comfortable chair. My kids also found very comfy chairs and as gradeschoolers and enjoyed the experience also. There is no whisteling sound at all. I have very sensative ears and my children have new ears and we did not hear any whistle. The place was full of people. The front hall as you enter will surley be used for something such as for art or somewthing when it is completed. They will get signs for the shelves and not use hand written signs I am sure with time. They don't have all of the books and to put up signs that woiuld need to be replaced would be a real waste.
Sure I would have done some things differently. I did however enjoy the experience and would recomend it to others.

 
At 9/09/2006 5:14 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Thanks "Bob" for your insulting and garbled response.

The question was how you felt about the library. I guess you finally got around to that towards the end, so thanks.

First off, I didn't get lost, I simply didn't know where anything was located.

Are you suggesting that visitors to the library should just KNOW where everything is now located by telepathy?

You don't think that perhaps SOME sort of signs showing where sections are located are necessary, at least after a brand new place opens?

You're attempt to suggest that I don't know how to self check-out is stupid as well.

I use the self check out at the grocery store all the time, and as far as not being tech savvy, I'd remind you that I know enough to have run and maintained this site for over a year. I think I know how to use a self check-out station and I figured it out immediately.

My point, which was obviously lost on you, was that there is nothing to let patrons know that the self-check out stations even exist.

I put my books down there and had no idea it was a self check out station as there was nothing to indicate it was. But I guess my ESP was supposed to tell me that too, as well as the correct way to use it?

And I'm sorry, but there is simply no justification for spending nearly $1000 a copy for chairs in a conference room that measures perhaps 20x12 feet and will see very light use. Unless of course, you have more than enough money to spend. Is that the case here?

If you choose to spend irresponsibly on junk for your home, that's fine. I bet salesman love to see you coming.

But something tells me that you don't buy your top of the line stuff for your home using OTHER PEOPLE'S money.

You want to be extravagent, fine. Good for you. But since you can't quite grasp it, I'd point out that this is a little different situation. This isn't your money that's being wasted. It's every taxpayer in the city of Moline's.

And of course I realize that furnishings for a public building need to be extra durable and sturdy. But I still maintain that there are numerous options for just that which would have cost considerably less, many on the office funishings website linked to alone.

Sorry you find it perplexing as to why someone would object to spending public funds in an extravagant way.

I suppose they should provide a Bentley for all the city council members to get around in too. After all, you have unquestioning faith in your elected and unelected "leaders" and I'm sure you would see no problem with that either. They need to be comfortable after all, right?

I do find your submissive attitude towards those who spend YOUR tax dollars a bit disturbing.

Thank God not everyone is as docile and compliant as you, or there'd be even more waste and corruption.

You have a right to your opinion, but I respectfully think it's weak, and doubt that many share it.

 
At 9/10/2006 12:47 PM, Anonymous Dusty said...

Don't lose sleep worrying about the cost of these cool chairs. State Rep. Mike Boland brought home a state grant to pay for these chairs. Iff you spread the $1,000 per chair accross all these chairs and then across a few million people, your discover your share of the purchase was less than a penny.

I went back and read a review of the old downtown library and a man complained that the bathroom was indside rather than outside (they were use out-houses).

 
At 9/10/2006 9:17 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Rep. Boland got a grand specifically for chairs. Oh really?

Just where did you hear this odd tid bit?

Now we've heard from the two people who favor blowing tax money unecessarily.

 
At 9/13/2006 6:09 PM, Blogger Huntooner said...

Boland had nothing to do with funding chairs for the Moline library.

I am positive about that because I do the paperwork for Boland's office on grants.

It is true that Mike Boland is a great supporter of libraries, he's personally secured funding to help several in his district. His assistance included making possible the expansion of the Silvis Library and the York Township Library in Thomson. And, if I remember correctly, Boland did help with a grant for library construction in Moline too.

One thing for sure, the grants given by Boland's office have been for library construction, and renovation - but never for furnishings.

Any more questions?

 
At 9/15/2006 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that you see that you were wrong on the price of these chairs by nearly $250 don't you feel a little silly. These chairs that will last and last only cost $678. What a bargain. I suggest that you find a new outlet for your furniture or stop stretching the truth to try and make yourself look good.

Bob Thomas

 
At 9/15/2006 10:41 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Bob, where does it say I'm wrong about the cost of these chairs?

Based on the website I cite, which guarantees the lowest price, the chairs with the chrome base option costs exactly what I said it does, and I estimated a 10% volume discount from that price.

So where am I "wrong" here Bobby?

 
At 9/15/2006 11:18 AM, Blogger triumphantly, jenny said...

hey!

I am a librarian, though not anywhere near there....but basically every library (including very very tiny ones) have security strips in all the books. Of course not all of them make this OBVIOUS, which I think is better, because then thieves get caught.

I think the large island with librarians is the REFERENCE DESK. Where you are most welcome to ask questions. In fact the best part of all libraries is that people WANT you to ask them questions. It isn't pestering, it's their JOB! :)

Also, a library really has no control (in most places) over what its friends of the library group chooses to do with the money it raises. Similarly, a lot of meeting rooms in libraries belong at least partially to other city organizations and are likewised furnished by other organizations. I can't say this is or is not the case there, but it's true of a lot of places.

finally, I worked at a library which had signage when it opened, but it was faulty (some weird plastic problem) and so they had to take it all down and get new ones....in the meantime there was no signage. not an ideal situation, but one that seems to happen oddly frequently in new buildings.

next time you are in any library, just ask someone. they'll be happy to help.

 
At 9/15/2006 11:21 AM, Blogger triumphantly, jenny said...

oh also, non profit organizations buying furniture get way different price quotes, so basically we have no idea how much they paid.

buuuut most cities have open accounting books by law, so some librarian might be able to help you look that up!

 
At 9/15/2006 11:57 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Jenny,
First allow me to say that you hold a place near and dear to my heart, being a librarian. Thanks for your service.

I'm not sure the big desk upstairs was reference though, as the reference stacks weren't near it, though in the complete absense of any signs, who knows?

Secondly, you're correct in that the library board may have no final say on what a supporting group buys for the library, but surely they have a lot of influence. If the board was strongly against something or tactfully suggested that they needed something else more urgently, I'm sure the "Friends" group would have taken it seriously.

The "Friends" organization was responsible for the baby grand piano, but there's no indication that they paid for any part of the seating.

It's safely assumed that that was authorized and paid for by the library board at some point.

And finally, I did include an estimated volume discount of 10% for the chairs. Even taking that into account, the chairs in one small and one medium size meeting rooms came to close to $35,000.

Some apparently find that perfectly reasonable, but I don't.

And as I've repeated several times, I'm also mindful that furnishings in public spaces have to be extra sturdy and well built, thus more expensive than average seating bought for a home setting.

But even taking that into account, the choice of these chairs seems more costly than necessary.

The very site which offers the Herman Miller seating offers other alternatives for much less.

And I have to stress that if this were a privately funded project, or even one which came in under budget, this wouldn't be so much of an issue.

But the city is already charging soaring property taxes, is operating deep in the red, and this project was controversial to begin with and blew it's budget.

For those reasons, the over-spending on the chairs is relevant as it reveals that whomever was in charge wasn't thinking about saving money, but rather about buying the most expensive option.

 
At 9/15/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger triumphantly, jenny said...

I did not mean to say that the Friends paid for the chairs, only that some other civic org may have, or there may have been some extenuating reason if they were in a board room/meeting room. Many libraries are beholden to other civic organizations who pay for those rooms. Not the friends, but say local govt. I agree it seems like an outrageous expense, but not knowing what the situation is I cannot say that.


I also meant not a bulk discount, but through a library distributor chairs might be a different price, one I cannot calculate not having spoken to such a distributor. There also may be city reasons (ie "we only contract through certain distributors and get some insane deal).

Honestly, most libraries, when getting free stuff from Friends or other groups have to walk a FINE LINE between tactfully accepting something useless/less useful and pissing off people for being too "picky" when accepting free things. Tell people the 1972 Encyclopedia Britannica vol. X will be going in the booksale and not the shelves and many of them will stop patronizing the library altogether!

I think you are right to be concerned about how city funds are spent, but chastising them for purchases that are most likely open book and easily explainable if you asked is destructive. Libraries everywhere are being underfunded, and by that I mean, not able to open more than a few days a week, librarians not getting paid more than 20K a year, not getting health benefits, etc. Capital building projects are often well funded, but complaints like these assure libraries will not see, say, a cost of living increase for years and years, sometimes.

If you truly care about libraries, ask why they made these decisions before snarking at a public institution that teaches kids to read, deals with groups in society that other public orgs forget, and do so smiling and getting paid less than bus drivers even though they hold master's degrees. If you are so concerned, join the board, go to city meetings. These decisions and allocations don't get made in a vacuum!

 
At 9/15/2006 1:07 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Unfortunately, you've completely missed my point and mischaracterized my arguments to a huge degree.

It's disingenous for you to even suggest that I'm somehow slamming libraries or against all the wonderful things they do.

In fact, the reason for my complaints is just the opposite.

As I clearly state in the post, and which you utterly ignored apparently, I think that the money that was blown on these chairs and what all else should have been better spent on things which actually benefit the public and staff. The money blown on chairs could have gone to buy books, or pay staff, or... any number of more practical purposes.

So don't try to suggest that I'm bashing librarys or harming staff salaries, as that's quite a stretch and not my intention at all.

I'd rather have more books and better paid staff than fancy and extraneous goodies for the use of the fraction of patrons who will use the meeting rooms.

In fact, rather than chastising me, you should be agreeing with me. Namely, that those in charge of spending funds should have at least tried to economize with an eye towards having more money for ongoing expenses, such as personnel costs and materials.

If anyone comes away with the odd idea that because those in charge overspent on furnishings that somehow the entire library is crap and the staff shouldn't get paid.... well, they're using their imagination too much.

 
At 9/15/2006 1:11 PM, Blogger InformationWaitress said...

Like Jenny, I'm one of those crazy mid-20s librarians nobody's been talking about. With a bona fide Master's degree and all.

While it's nice to know that Inside Dope has undying love for the profession, it's the LIBRARIANS (and not the "profligate" administrators) at Moline Public that are going to suffer the fallout of this post. Even as I type this, crabby taxpapers are waving copies of the local paper (kinda sad that the Dispatch's reporters get all their scoops from blogs) at their overeducated and underpaid librarians. As per usual, the public will take out all their righteous ire on the staff, who likely had no say on the library's design or furnishings.

 
At 9/15/2006 1:50 PM, Blogger triumphantly, jenny said...

first, perhaps it is your hostility that makes people "mischaracterize" your argument. your post is really hostile.

i in no way think you don't like libraries. but i am saying if you like them, publicly harassing them for two pages without even substantiating your claims or discussing it with the library is irresponsible.

if it turns out the library did pay full price for all said chairs, i would personally agree with you that it could have been spent elsewhere. but you DON'T KNOW THAT. But I was also trying to clarify that because of the way politics and funding works, a city will often give a library a LOT of money for building but no money for staff or materials--it's not like the money earmarked "chairs" can just be spent on books. It's not the library's decision...it's the funders--so your government.


you said:
"
If anyone comes away with the odd idea that because those in charge overspent on furnishings that somehow the entire library is crap and the staff shouldn't get paid..."

If people complainly loudly and publicly about the library without clarifying if their argument is true or not, and the city and taxpayers hear about it without getting the facts, often the library is negatively impacted.

 
At 9/15/2006 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inside Dope,

I agree that your snarky assesment is for its own sake, and not in the service of library economy, whatever you intended. Your technique in reviewing the new place is simply to characterize everything in the most ungenerous way possible.

Take library seating for instance. You say that "you're sitting under the glare of intense sunlight, as if you're reading on the sidewalk outside" -- as if this is obviously bad, as if the library has failed its duty to protect you from such "intense" light, and as if this isn't what people do on nice days (read outside on the sidewalk)! Wouldn't you apply your acid scrutiny to chairs placed in a dark corner?

Anyway, given your lack of sympathy (which is apparent even when you try to have some, i.e. you give yourself a point for saying that the shelves look empty even after recognizing the purpose for it!), are we really supposed to rely on your indictment of the Herman Miller purchases, based as it is on your finding a self-advertized "guaranteed lowest price" online? Or should we see it as your trying to land easy pot-shots, self-styling as citizen hero against public waste?

 
At 9/15/2006 6:14 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 14:44.

I don't "style" myself as anything. I went to the library, and wrote about what I saw and my impressions. Nothing more than that.

You're perfectly free to have a negative reaction to my opinions.

But what I'm going for here is other people's opinion and impressions of the library, which of course, can, and probably will differ from mine.

 
At 9/15/2006 6:30 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Information Waitress,

If your scenario is true and people are berating librarians for the excesses of board members, then that's simply unfair and wrong. But I fail to see how I could have predicted that happening.

That's like someone screaming at a wait person because their food isn't prepared properly.

I trust that enough people know better than to blame the workers who make the library run for the excesses of those who planned the project.

If it does happen, I'd advise all librarians to carry a card with the names and contact info for all the board members and simply hand the irate patron that and tell them to take it up with someone who actually has something to do with it.

 
At 9/15/2006 6:34 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Jenny again,
I think readers are smart enough to make up their own minds if what I observed is plausible or not.

I'm not a reporter, nor am I paid to be one.

I suggest that if it's critical to you to find out what the chairs actually cost, you investigate it yourself, though apparently the Dispatch/Argus is doing some reporting on it. (though I haven't read it yet.)

 
At 9/15/2006 7:39 PM, Blogger rope-a-dope said...

A FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request would not be out of the question as a way to solve the question . . .

How much did those now notorious chairs actually cost?

 
At 9/15/2006 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm one of those strange souls that is in library school, looking to become a full-fledged librarian. Disclaimer: I've worked in libraries in the Chicago area for ten years (without an MLS), and helped with the planning of the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.

I'd be interested to know if the Moline library was planned by bureaucrats or planned by librarians. I have a feeling it is the former and not the later.

The room with the cushy chairs sounds like the board room. The board always wants cushy chairs.

It was a constant fight when planning the library. Fighting the board, fighting the architects, departments fighting for space.

I'd be interested to hear how that library was planned, if you can find out.

 
At 9/15/2006 11:11 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Well Rope, luckily, the Dispatch/Argus has looked into things.

According to the piece by Dawn Neuses in the Dispatch/Argus, the library bought 24 Aeron chairs at a cool $678.72 each, and spent $33,470 on 193 side chairs and another $35,535 on armless chairs for meeting rooms.

According to my math, that's $107,013 bucks for places to park your kiester.

 
At 9/16/2006 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a resident close to the new library.....We love it! My kids love it and think it's so much more fun then any other library they have gone to, other than the downtown Chicago library.

I think "our library" is a great additon to the neighborhood and city. We love it!d I don't feel like my tax dollars were wasted at all.

 
At 9/16/2006 3:05 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I'm sincerly glad to hear that.

It's hard to conceive that a new library could be a "bad" thing, and that's not what I suggested at all.

But it is perfectly legit to both question some aspects of it as well as express a personal opinion.

AS I said in the post, I expect that many people will be pefectly happy with the new facility, as they should be.

As I say, I'm glad to hear it, and was never out to convince people to hate it. I don't "hate" it myself, though I'm obviously disappointed about some things. I was just expressing my opinion and first impressions.

 
At 9/16/2006 8:41 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

To anon 01:42 on Sept 16 -- Chairs aside -- How nice the city built a new library clad in copper so the kids from the RICHEST areas in town can go there when they get tired of playing with their IPODs and XBox toys and want to give Dad a rest..... Meanwhile the children who live near downtown and who don't have a newspaper or computer because their Dad is working two or three meanial jobs to feed them must ride a bus for an hour to get into the building in the first place since their library building is closed. Those kids will have to work three times as hard to get into college and school with little help from the City or anyone else. They have been forgotten by everyone including their own Alderwoman in this whole saga.

So glad your kids can just walk there....and maybe you then can sit and paint your nails or something.

Mayor Welvert's new campaign slogan should read, "Copper, it's not just for plumbing anymore!"

I will remember this when I pay my tax bill as will many other Moline citizens and property owners.

 
At 9/16/2006 3:04 PM, Anonymous Library Fan said...

I have never been in a building as new as the new library. The closest I have come is the new maternity ward at the 7th St. Trinity when they first opened. I was due to give birth there in a few months when they had their big tour. I could have walked in looking for things I didn't like. I could have walked in trying to convince myself it was perfect. However, as an open-minded individual, I walked in waiting to see what I would find. I was pleased, despite a few things I could have considered "flaws." And by the time I did deliver my baby those minor details had mostly been worked out.

It is clear from your post that you went into the library looking to be disappointed. That is a fair and legitimate standpoint to take, if you admit it. Someone else mentioned that you seem to understand the room for growth on the shelves and yet focus on how barren it looks. The copper part of the siding (which, by the way, is LESS expensive than brick facing) will be facing the main parking lot and is, in fact, the front of the building.

"I imagine most morgues are more inviting than this." Could you be any more negative?

I have been in this library and I did not have any trouble finding my way around. Why? Because I asked the helpful staff and they gave me a map and explained where things were, even walking me over to the section I needed. Have you ever tried asking for help or information at the library? It is, after all, a library. Which is how I found answers about the other concerns you mentioned in your post.

Thank you for bringing attention to the new library, which my family and I really enjoy. I only wish you could have done it in a less biased manner or been honest from the start about your bias.

 
At 9/16/2006 9:47 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Library fan.

I'd dispute your saying I was 'biased' in my review, as that assumes that I have some stake in the matter.

I'll admit that I was very disappointed to see what the building looked like, having hoped for something a little more fitting with it's setting or at least a bit imaginative and attractive. But other than that, as I say in my post (which most commenters seem to not have even read) I was excited about seeing it and was hoping to be impressed and pleased.

I didn't go into the place on a mission to find every little thing wrong with the place. I could have just as easily written a post praising it and saying how great it is.

But that's not how I felt.

So now you and others are scraping the barrel trying to ascribe all sorts of made up motives for my piece, and saying it's unfair or "biased".

I say that's unfair.

If you disagree with my opinion of the library, that's fine. No problem there. But getting mad at me or accusing me of stuff that's invented out of thin air is not "OK".

I've told many people that if any post was to get the attention this one has, I sure would have rather it be almost any other than this, as it is a very critical and rather crabby review, and admittedly, the more I found to dislike the more sour my opinion of the place got.

I just wanted them to get the place right, and clearly they didn't.

That said, most of my complaints were extremely minor stuff, and things which, as I said in the post, will likely be corrected with time.

So i think people's impulse to beat on me for my dim initial opinion of the library is more a relection of their particular motives than mine, as I have none other than to express my opinion.

People have seemed to attack me as if I had deprived them of the opportunity to enjoy the library. That of course is ridiculous. Enjoy it all you want. It's a brand new place and has a lot to offer.

They also seem to think that due to my many complaints, that I somehow am "anti-libraries", "anti-librarians" and perhaps the most ridiculous and loaded term, "anti-progress".

That's all BS too, in case anyone cares.

If you feel that the post was overly bitchy and nit-picky, I'd certainly admit that's a valid opinion, as in hindsight I kind of think it was too. (as I said, I sure wish it had been some other post that had gotten this attention)

But it doesn't mean that the things I wrote are invalid or not legitimate.

And just for those readers who may be stumbling across this blog for the first time, let me assure you that the library post isn't a typical example of most posts here.

 
At 9/16/2006 9:53 PM, Anonymous Administrator said...

Commenter "sdspearsjd" asked me to post the following comment for them as they were having some difficulting with the process:

A sure sign that I am approaching (or at) middle age is that a building that didn't exist when I was born has outlived its useful life and is slated for demolition.

I have great memories of the library in Moline. At first, my mother took me to the basement of the old library, where I first encountered the charming smell of old books and got my hands on every version of Curious George I could find. Later, I was thrilled with the branch library. I spent many rainy afternoons sitting in the comfortable childrens' reading area with a book, enjoying the wooded setting.

I could go on and on about my great memories of the summer reading programs and the thrill of the Bookmobile visiting my school. In the interest of brevity, however, I'll let it go.

I no longer live in Moline, but have taken the solid education and upbringing I received there and entered the practice of law in a larger city a few hours east. I return as often as I can. Since I concentrate my practice in construction law, I thought I would risk opening my mouth and adding a few comments relevant to your review.

First, all major construction projects have problems. Millions of individual pieces need to fit together, in addition to coordinating the efforts of many subcontracted trades. At the conclusion of a project, it is not unusual to have a punchlist with hundreds of items that need correcting. Some are latent defects that won't be noticed for years. One of the most difficult problems is HVAC. If the front doors are being held open by air pressure, the HVAC contractor is likely aware and just needs to adjust the system. It is a warranty issue and should be completed at no cost to the library.

Second, as to the starkness of the new construction, I agree wholeheartedly. New architecture is, to my taste, bland and sterile. I see it in every new municipal project on which I work. I am fortunate to live in a 1908 building my wife and I have lovingly restored and to which we have added many modern conveniences. I love old buildings. In my opinion, by comparison they are warmer (though sometimes draftier...) and more interesting.

Finally, you had a question about the contingency allowance in the construction budget. When a contractor bids a project, it has the option of specifying a contingency amount to cover unexpected costs during construction. It assures the general contractor will be paid if, for reasons outside its control, construction costs exceed estimates. The earlier in the design phase a project is bid, the higher the contingency the construction manager or general contractor will request, since the design phase is when specifications (such as Aeron chairs) are subject to change. When working on behalf of municipalities, I negotiate the contingency amount as low as possible, primarily because most contracts allow the CM or GC to receive a portion of the contingency amount. With all due respect to CMs and GCs, they want that amount as high as possible, because most owners see coming in under cost as being due to the efficiency of the CM or GC rather than being the result of an inflated contingency or guaranteed maximum price. Still awake?

Thank you for your detailed review. I cannot wait to return home and see the new facility. My family tells me it is a pretty incredible building, notwithstanding some faults. Congratulations to Moline on your new library. It is truly an investment in the future, and will hopefully provide a place of learning for generations to come.

 
At 9/16/2006 9:57 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

to the comment of "sdspearsjd".

Thanks. I appreciate the insight into the construction process and your shedding light on several issues. The info was as I expected, such as the air pressure problem being a simple matter of adjustment, but it's good to have a clear explanation of several of the points raised in the post.

Thanks again for the helpful and illuminating comment.

 
At 9/17/2006 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this review - nicely done and your honesty is much appreciated.

 
At 9/17/2006 10:51 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Editors note:

Some nit-wit has repeatedly left comments asking when or if I'll admit I was "wrong" about the price of these chairs.

The question was so dishonest and petty that I've not bothered posting them.

I'd like to point out to this person that I can't admit to being wrong about something which I never reported as fact in the first place. Why this dullard can't figure that out is baffling.

As is clear to anyone who read the post, I quoted what one of these chairs listed for on a reputable office furnishings website which guarantees the lowest price. I could have easily found quotes which were much higher.

I then clearly stated that the library surely must have gotten a volume discount, and used 10% as a rough guess at what this might be.

I then reported what the cost would be with a 10% discount applied to the cost of each chair using the "lowest price" quoted on the website.

I also quoted the price of the baseline, cheaper model of the Aeron chair, giving the library the benefit of the doubt.

As it turns out, they had bought the much more expensive "fully adjustible" model that retails for around $1100 or more for individual chairs.

This is rock simple and hard to believe someone can't grasp it. Unless of course, they were so excited to think they'd found something to pin on me that they didn't bother to think it through or re-read the post.

If this crank can point to any place where I asserted that I was doing anything but making an informed and educated guess as to what the library paid for the chairs, then they have me and I'll appologize.

But if not, then I'd suggest they give it up and go away.

I was not "wrong" about the price of the chairs because at no time did I state, "The library paid this amount for the chairs".

The price that the library said they paid per chair is still pretty damn steep for a single chair in the opinion of myself, and judging from the response to the D/A article, a LOT of others.

This commenter who thinks they've really got me pinned down also asks if I'd buy one of the chairs for the price the library reportedly paid.

The answer is no.

Because in order to get that price, I'd have to buy TWO DOZEN of them, and I don't really think I need to sit in a different chair nearly each day of the month.

What I'd like to know now is something which the Dispatch/Argus story did not report, namely, just where or from whom did the library buy all these chairs?

That seems to be a relevant fact in the story and it's surprising that it either was omitted or never asked.

 

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