Public Records Access Model of the Future – Your Local Library

Guest Columnist – Barbara Petersen

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Public Records Access Model of the Future – Your Local Library

Barbara Petersen 1FAFAs Winter Park discusses the library services of the future, many opportunities come to mind.

Informed Citizens Are Key to Civic Wellbeing

The Florida First Amendment Foundation (FAF) believes the library has an important opportunity to partner with local government to enhance access to public information and to more efficiently manage public records requests.

Library Supports Citizens’ Need for Public Information

We believe there is a natural synergy between the Winter Park library and the Winter Park municipal government. Libraries are known to be apolitical and non-bureaucratic. Highly skilled in information management, the library is uniquely suited to assume more responsibility to support the public information needs of the community under Florida’s open government laws, known in the vernacular as our Sunshine Laws.

Library is Ideal Repository of Public Documents

The 21st-century library can be a digital community center which helps foster an informed and engaged community. The library of the future can add tremendous value by increasing access, adding credibility and generating valuable public information that contributes to the civic understanding and institutional memory of a community like Winter Park.

Working with organizations like the First Amendment Foundation, the Winter Park library could serve as custodian of public documents and answer public records requests. The library could catalog and hold public records in a cloud-based repository accessible by the entire community.

Investigative reporters, community-based organizations, and business entities would be encouraged to deposit information into the repository that they’ve obtained through the public records requests.

Cloud-Based Repository Most Efficient

A citizen’s request for public records through a central library repository removes layers of bureaucracy, reduces the escalating costs of accessing public records and leads to a more informed and engaged citizenry.

The Florida First Amendment Foundation would willingly join this partnership. Through Winter Park’s leadership, this could become a national model. What a wonderful value-added component to a library’s 21st- century services.

Editor’s Note: Barbara Petersen is President of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, which works to preserve and protect open government laws (www.floridafaf.org). She is past Chair of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and served as Chair of the Commission on Open Government. Petersen is based in Tallahassee.

Library Teams Up with Aspen Institute

Leaders Gather to Discuss 21st-Century Library

Library Teams Up with Aspen Institute

winterpark-library2The Winter Park Public Library partnered with the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute to convene community gatherings to discuss the role of the 21st century library. A panel discussion on the evening of June 8 at the University Club was open to the general public. The following day, a group of 30 community leaders gathered at the Civic Center for a day-long roundtable discussion.

Public Forum at University Club

The library dialogue led off with a Wednesday evening event entitled, “Your Winter Park Library: A Conversation About the Future.” The panel discussion was moderated by Amy Garmer, Director, Dialogue on Public Libraries, from The Aspen Institute. The formal presentation was followed by lively input from the audience.

Featured panelists were John Bracken, V.P. for Media Innovation at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Richard Adler, Principal, People & Technology and Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future.

“We are excited to have John Bracken share his extensive knowledge and national perspective on what it takes to create and sustain healthy, informed and engaged communities in the digital age,” said Winter Park Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer. “And Richard Adler’s vast insight into the successful marriage of people and technology . . . will set a strong foundation for the Winter Park Library Dialogue.”

Winter Park Will Be Model for Other Libraries

“Winter Park is the first of five communities across the country that we will be working with in the next year and a half,” explained Garmer. “The engagement of the City of Winter Park in exploring the future of the library and the opportunities to re-envision its role for the 21st century will serve as a model for other communities across the country.”

Community Leaders Meet – By Invitation Only

The public event was followed the next day by an invitation-only meeting of community leaders and representatives who gathered to discuss how the library can meet changing community needs in an environment of rapid, radical change in information technology.  For a list of attendees, click here.

The Winter Park library dialogue was based on a framework established by The Aspen Institute in 2014 that explores how libraries can respond to increased demands for high-speed information access, changes in our education and job training systems, and community services to help people compete in a changing economy.

Round Table Discussion

Participants in Thursday’s moderated roundtable addressed four strategic opportunities.
1. Aligning library services in support of community goals
2. Providing access to content in all formats
3. Cultivating leadership and citizenship in the community
4. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the library

In the coming weeks, The Aspen Institute will report the results of the June meetings.

‘Be Grateful for the City You Live In’

Amy Garmer remarked on how impressed she was by the level of sophistication, knowledge and commitment she encountered in Winter Park. “Winter Park is unique,” she said. “You are so fortunate. Be grateful for the city you live in.”

No Library in MLK Park

Open Letter to the Citizens of Winter Park

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

No Library in MLK Park


Guest Columnist – Joe Terranova
Joe TerranovaMuch has been said recently about the construction of a new library in Winter Park. Unfortunately, some of the comments by the Mayor and others have been misleading. Here is another view.

Mayor Steve Leary has stated on several occasions that the petition being circulated is illegal. I am not aware that any court has ruled on the matter. The City Attorney may ‘feel’ that way. Our counsel says our actions are strictly within the law.

City Clerk Calls Petition Unlawful

Although our City Clerk has made statements that cast doubt on the legality and timeliness of the petition, our City Charter gives her, in her official capacity, no legal standing to make those kinds of judgements.

I am a member of the Petitioners’ Committee collecting signatures to prevent the construction of a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

Why Are We Doing This?

The citizens recently approved a referendum authorizing the City to issue bonds in an amount up to $30 Million to build a new library, events center and associated parking structure. The Mayor has stated that “everyone knew” the library would be built in MLK Park.

I disagree.

No Site In Referendum

Neither the ballot language nor the ordinance authorizing the referendum stated where the library would be built. In fact, during a Commission meeting when the ordinance was being voted on, one commissioner wanted to specifically say in the ordinance that the library would be built in MLK Park. The Commission voted No.

Publications issued in support of the new library made it clear that all the conceptual renderings of the structures were just that – conceptual renderings. Nowhere did it say the MLK site was cast in stone.

MLK Park – Who Knew?

Our petition circulators have reported that while some people knew where the library would be built, most did not. Many of those who did not said they would not have voted in favor of the referendum had they been aware of the intended site in MLK Park.

Why Not MLK Park?

MLK Park is probably the worst option available to the City for the location of the new library. This huge structure would adversely affect the environment in the park. Traffic at the corner of 17-92 and Harper Street is already bad and will get worse, even without adding a library and events center. Removing an essential element – our library – from the core of our City will, in time, denigrate Winter Park as a special place.

Where Can the New Library Go?

The approved referendum gives the City the legal authority to build the new library anywhere in the City it wants. City leadership, however, has never bothered to get a consensus of the citizens to support the MLK Park site for a combined library, events center and associated parking structure. As a result, the Mayor has unnecessarily divided the City on this issue.
It is now time to take MLK Park off the table and get real as to a proper location for the new library in the City core. The only way we can do this is through our Citizens’ Initiative, which is authorized by the City Charter.

Sign the Petition

If you have not already signed our petition and wish to do so, contact our petition coordinator, Sally Flynn, by email at flynnlinks@aol.com. Someone will be in touch with you. If you believe as we do, we urge you to sign the petition.

Our motto is simple: Library? YES! In MLK Park? NO!

 

Editor’s Note:

Former Winter Park Mayor Joe Terranova is a member of the Citizens Petition Committee.

What Makes a City Great?

Charley Williams – Guest Columnist

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

What Makes a City Great?

Charley WilliamsFor the better part of two years – and, really, for many decades prior to that – Winter Park has been engaged in a discussion of how to preserve the character of our city — the character that makes us cherish the privilege of living here. We all want the same thing, but we have difficulty agreeing on how to achieve it.

What Do We Want?

Basically, we want our city to stay beautiful.

How do we do that?

The attached video articulates in a simple, vivid way, six principles of civic beauty. Regardless of which notion you espouse of beauty and how to achieve it, this entertaining, instructive piece offers a framework and a vocabulary with which to conduct the discussion.

Six Principles of Beautiful Cities

1. Variety and Order
2. Visible Life
3. Compact
4. Orientation and Mystery
5. Scale
6. Make it Local

Seventh Principle for Winter Park

7. Create Shade – shade trees, awnings, misters – anything to protect us from that famous Florida sunshine.

I hope you will take the time to enjoy this short video, originally published by The School of Life, located in London’s famed Bloomsbury district. They describe themselves this way. “The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We offer a variety of programs and services concerned with how to live wisely and well.”

To learn more, visit http://www.thebookoflife.org

© The Book of Life

 

Charley Williams has been a Winter Park resident for 14 years. He serves as a Trustee for the Florida First Amendment Foundation and is a past state Board Member, Florida League of Women Voters.

Library Public Info Meetings

Three Meetings Next Week

Library Public Info Meetings

The Winter Park Public Library will host three Community Conversations next week. Meetings will be in the Library Community Room on the first floor.

Dates & Times:

Wednesday June 1 — 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 Noon
Thursday, June 2 — 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 4 — 12:00 Noon to 2:30 p.m.

Public Conversations About the New Facility

Residents will have the opportunity to get facts about the proposed project. Discussion will include the characteristics and best practices of 21st-century libraries. Library personnel will be on hand to gather residents’ feedback to further define our community’s priorities for materials, services and programs in the new facility.

Open-House Format

The three sessions will follow an informal, open-house-style format. Flexible times are designed to accommodate as many residents as possible.

Why Should We Build a Library-Event Center in MLK Park?

An Insider’s View

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Why Should We Build a Library-Event Center in MLK Park?

Guest Columnist – Nancy Miles

nancy miles SMALLFriends of mine are walking door to door with a petition they would like you to sign. That petition would prevent the City from building a library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

I was approached by one such friend, who was unaware that I was involved in the long and thorough process that resulted in the Library Task Force report to the City Commission with a unanimous recommendation for a new library at MLK Park.

Reaching the Conclusion – We Need a New Library

The Library Task Force represented a wide range of constituents and viewpoints. We started out with very different ideas about whether we even needed a new library. Many thought the existing library could be rebuilt.

I was in the “didn’t-need-too-much-convincing-to-rebuild” camp early, because I have spent time in our library and have seen how cramped and inflexible the building has become. Anyone who has tried to find a quiet work spot knows what I mean.

Once we saw solid reasons why a retrofit would not work, we all had different ideas about where a new library should be sited.

Long Search for a New Home

When we got to the “find-the-best-location” stage, we again had widely differing preferences. My choices, City Hall or the Post Office, turned out to not be best. The City Hall site could work if the whole block was available, but it is not. The US Postal Service’s demand for a new distribution center made that choice too expensive. The other sites we looked at were either not available or were unworkable.

I was part of the Task Force sub-group that studied the Civic Center site. When we looked at adding a library there, we saw a great opportunity.

Combined Facility = Smaller Footprint

Our original mission had not included looking at a rebuild of the Civic Center, but those of us on the Civic Center sub-group saw a building in need of rehab. When the Commissioners sent us back to look at combining the library with the Civic Center, it began to make a lot of sense.

Combining the library and event center would result in a smaller footprint than a library added to the Civic Center. The new dual-purpose building would be an efficient and beautiful use of that corner of the park. The result would be a beautiful, exciting space in our city.

After many months of study and discussion, the Task Force, as a whole, was able to take a unanimous proposal to the Commission for a combined library and events center in MLK Park.

The voters agreed and passed the referendum.

. . . and the Future of the Existing Library?

Now it is time to choose the best design for our library and event space. We also need to talk about what to do with the existing library. I hope we keep it for future civic use, but that will be a long discussion – a discussion in which I hope my politically active friends will be very involved.

Bring me that petition and I will sign it!

Winter Park Library – Doorway to the Future

Guest Columnist – Thaddeus Seymour

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Winter Park Library – Doorway to the Future

“I Can Hardly Wait”

The Winter Park Public Library has been an important part of our lives ever since Polly and I moved here nearly forty years ago.  We remember the original wood building next to All Saints on Interlachen, and we were among those volunteers who helped the library move all those books to its new home in 1979.

From “Hush . . .” to the Liveliest Place in Town

Happiest of all have been the years of admiring the creative new ways our library has served the community.  When we first knew it, the library was primarily a repository for books, and the byword was “Hush . . ..”  Now it is the liveliest place in town.  Have you seen those trees created out of discarded plastic bottles, representing world religions?  Are you one of the thousands of learners who has attended one of the 700+ classes and discussions?  Have you ridden one of the bikes, perhaps the tandem?  Have you checked out an iPad? Have you tended to the plants?

Younger folks would describe today’s library as a “happenin’ place.” But we are running out of space, out of ways to make “happenin'” things happen, out of the cyber technology to support and advance what our patrons want and need.

21st Century Opportunity

Now we have the opportunity to carry this spirit into the 21st Century with an exciting new library — designed with more room for books, study, creative activities (like Makerspaces), adaptable areas. Each a doorway to the future.

The prospect of a new, flexible facility, designed to accommodate needs we can’t even imagine, is truly exhilarating, especially in the setting of Martin Luther King Park. How exciting to imagine a place in Winter Park where we all can be a part, not only of the past and the present, but of a future we can hardly imagine.

“I Can Hardly Wait for Move to MLK Park!”

The workshops and discussions over the past two years have engaged us all in the excitement of new ideas, new designs, and new opportunities.  Sam Stark and his Task Force have done a superlative job of exploring alternatives and “making the case.” Most of all, they have considered various locations and unambiguously selected the northwest corner of Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.  I can hardly wait!

The recent vote proclaims that the community can hardly wait, either.

Let’s Embrace the Future. No More Fights.

Then along comes a political PAC, stirring up a bunch of people, including some of my good friends.  And suddenly I dread that we are headed back to the dog park days, where it seemed that everyone, also including lots of friends, was mad.

Oh, please, let’s not have another ugly fight.  The vote is history.  Now let’s have the fun and excitement of working with architects, designers, librarians, and educators to build a library which will be the pride of Winter Park and the envy of other communities.

I am confident that our new library will be a rich resource, reflecting Winter Park’s historic dedication to new ideas and forward thinking.

Let’s Get On With It

And I have no doubt that it will breathe new life into Martin Luther King Park, which is a lively place on its playing fields but pretty quiet and empty at its north end.  Our new library will not only enrich and enhance our lives but will also provide new opportunities for all of us to enjoy and appreciate Martin Luther King Park.

We’ve had our vote and we know its outcome.  Now let’s get on with it.

Editor’s Note:  Seymour was president of Rollins from 1978 to 1990 and continued to teach English there until 2008. He has been a member of the Library Board and served as its Chairman 1996-98.

Library Update: Citizens Petition Group Moves Forward to Block MLK Location

Library Update: Citizens Petition Group Moves Forward to Block MLK Location

Despite City attempts to erect roadblocks, the Save Our Library PAC announced today that it will move forward with its Citizens Initiative Petition to prohibit building a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

Public Meeting Wednesday, May 11, at the Community Center

The Save Our Library PAC, led by Michael Poole, Sally Flynn, Charley Williams, former Commissioner Margie Bridges and former Mayor Joe Terranova, will host a public meeting: Petition forms will be available for citizens to sign and circulate.

Winter Park Community Center –
721 W. New England Avenue
Wednesday, May 11, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

 

City Denies Citizens’ Request for Petitions

In an email to Save Our Library PAC President Michael Poole, City Clerk Cindy Bonham stated in part: “The request for petition forms . . . is not timely, as the petition forms you have requested . . . appear to constitute a reconsideration or referendum to repeal Ordinance No. 3020-15 and the City Commission’s decision to locate the library and events center in Martin Luther King Park . . . . Referendum petitions must be filed within 30 days after adoption of the ordinance to be considered.” (To view the entire email, click here.)

Ordinance Silent on Library Location

Ordinance No. 3020-15 is the Bond Referendum language that appeared on the March 15, 2016, ballot. It specifically omits any language pertaining to the intended location of the library/events center.

Citizens Initiative Petition

The request filed by the Save Our Library PAC was a Citizens Initiative Petition, not a Referendum Repeal. A group representative told the Voice they do not seek to overturn the bond referendum, nor do they seek to prevent the construction of a new library/events center/parking structure.

The group seeks to prevent a new library from being built in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

The Winter Park City Charter, Sec. 5.01. – Initiative, states: “The qualified voters of the city shall have power to propose ordinances to the commission and, if the commission fails to adopt an ordinance so proposed without any change in substance, to adopt or reject it at a city election.” No time limitation is specified.

City Attorney Advises

In email correspondence obtained from the City, City Attorney Kurt Ardaman advises Cindy Bonham that she is under no obligation to respond to the citizens group, but he suggests possible wording of a message she might send to Michael Poole, if she concludes that the Petitioner’s Committee Affadavit constitutes a Referendum rather than an Initiative.

city-attny-letter

Political Motivation?

PAC President Michael Poole stated that he believes the City’s position is politically motivated. “This is just another attempt by government to suppress the citizens’ rights,” said Poole. “We are going ahead with our petition drive.”

Update

Asked why she had concluded that the petition in question is a Referendum Repeal rather than a Citizens Initiative, City Clerk Cindy Bonham replied by email.
“Ms. Mooney:
The charter language.

Sec. 5.02. – Referendum
The qualified voters of the city shall have the power to require reconsideration by the commission of any adopted ordinance and, if the commission fails to repeal an ordinance so reconsidered, to approve or reject it at a city election.

The final decision to put the library/events center in MLK Park happened last October and was confirmed with the ordinance calling for a bond referendum that was adopted in November. The time to have made this challenge would have been within 30 days of that ordinance adoption in accordance with Section 5.02 and 5.05(d) of the City Charter.

 

Petition Seeks to Block Library Construction in MLK Park

Petition Seeks to Block Library Construction in MLK Park

winterpark-library2Late yesterday, documents were filed with the City forming a citizens’ Petition Committee to pass a Winter Park City Ordinance that will prohibit construction of a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

The five-person committee, led by Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Advisory Board Chair Michael Poole, includes Sally Flynn, Charley Williams, former Commissioner Margie Bridges and former Mayor Joe Terranova.

Sole Purpose: Keep Library Out of the Park

The effort has a single purpose – to prevent construction of the library in MLK Park. Poole emphasized that the petition drive has nothing to do with the bond referendum, the disposition of the Civic Center or the ultimate location of the library — provided that location is not MLK Park.

“While it is likely, if the petition is successful, the library will remain in the downtown core,” said Poole, “we are not attempting to specify or even suggest an alternate location. We simply want to prevent the library from being constructed in the [Martin Luther King, Jr.,] park.”

Petition Forms Available Next Week

Poole said the committee would begin circulating petition forms this coming week after they have received them from the City. He said he would post an announcement on the Save Our Library PAC website to let people know whom to contact and how to participate, if they wish to do so. http://saveourlibrarywp.com/

As of this writing (it is, after all, Saturday), Library Board of Trustees President Marina Nice was unavailable for comment. Updates will be issued as more information becomes available.

Win – Win for the Library

by Vicki Krueger – Guest Columnist

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Win – Win for the Library

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”

Albert Einstein

Vicki KruegerWinter Park values its library and agrees, in principle, with the objective of creating a relevant 21st-century facility. Similarly, the Rachel Murrah Civic Center is beloved, but as currently configured, is said to no longer serve today’s needs.

The proposed “fix’ for these venues is to abandon the existing library and demolish the Civic Center to create two new buildings and a garage on park land at a cost to the taxpayers of $43 million ($30 million bond plus approximately $13 million in interest).

Win or Lose?

When Winter Park citizens are faced with decisions, too often their choices are structured as “win or lose,” which has the effect of pitting friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor and half the city against the other half. The winners gloat over their victory, earning the enmity of the losers. This paradigm is evident in the current Library and Civic Center bond issue, where the vote passed by a razor-thin margin.

Or Win – Win?

However, there is another approach to problem solving that mitigates the enmity and disarray resulting from a win-lose paradigm. A “win–win” approach accommodates all stakeholders, creating a result where everyone benefits, but not through another’s loss. Although no one gets it all, all the participants benefit in one way or another.

At the informational Library meetings I attended, Winter Park Public Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer and City Manager Randy Knight discussed the shortfalls of the existing facilities and proposed what was necessary to create 21st- century venues. By applying a win-win approach, those expressed needs might be accomplished as follows.

New Building on Current Library Site

First, construct a new four-story building on the site of the current Library parking lot. The first and second floors of this building would provide parking, and the third and fourth floors would satisfy the need for additional meeting space and would contain up-to-the-minute technology. The new building would be connected to the original building via one or more walkways and would contain an elevator that could accommodate a gurney in the event of a medical emergency.

Reading Areas for Children

Once the new building has been completed, begin modification on the original Library building.  Ms. Shaffer frequently spoke of requests for child-friendly areas. Turn the entire first floor into a Children’s Area. It has adequate space to accommodate children’s needs and is already computer ready. After the completion of the first floor, the second and third floors could be updated.

One benefit is that the Library could remain open during construction of the new building and renovation of the original building. An additional benefit might come in the form of an agreement between the Library and the Alfond Inn, allowing the Inn the use of the garage after Library closing hours in return for payment to the Library, which would provide income to the Library.

Civic Center: More Important Than the Library?

The morphing of the site description from “Civic Center” to “Events Center” and the repeated calls for a venue accommodating 400-500 people has some of us believing that the perceived need for a new Events Center and parking garage is greater than that of the Library.

However, in a “win-win” approach, the remedy for the stated inadequacies of the current Rachel Murrah Civic Center seems neither impossible nor even difficult. Using a portion of the bond money, the Civic Center could be upgraded by modifying the interior space to create multiple sized spaces and a beautiful new front entrance opening onto the park, and upgrading the parking.  With only the Civic Center building on the site, it might even be possible to downsize the garage, thus creating a scale more in keeping with the park.

Over the years in Winter Park, there have been many calls for more civility, for bringing the community together and for ending the hostility that has resulted from the many battles over issues.  Hasn’t Winter Park had enough of “win-“lose”?

Isn’t it time for Winter Park to “WIN-WIN”?