HBLC09 Manoa

Coming into this Library Tour Challenge we knew it wouldn’t be easy to accomplish, that there would be some bumps along the way, and that with Hawai’i’s libraries struggling we’d have to be flexible. We knew not all locations would be easy to visit, and that people might not have time to talk to us. In fact, one location would be almost impossible to visit because it no longer existed on its original premises.

When we began this journey, Manoa Public Library had just announced its plans to close its doors and move some of its collection to an interim location in preparation for the construction of a completely new library building slated for completion in 2011. The process of getting Manoa Library ready for its big move began with hundreds of Manoa community members coming out to help move the books out of the soon to be demolished building and into the temporary location at Noelani Elementary. Here’s a nice recap of that event with some great photos of  “Da Book Brigade” carrying bags of books across the street.manolib

The next big event in the Manoa Public Library moving saga was the ground breaking. Alex and I attended the official ceremony on Saturday, October 17th in the parking lot of the old library. You could still see the steel frame beams standing forlorn amid the rubble, but it was a sunny day and tons of people came out to celebrate and remember the old Manoa Library as well as join in on the blessing for the building of a newer, “greener” one. The old building’s steel frame will be recycled and reused and the new building will be constructed with energy efficient, eco-friendly materials. Several people spoke and the ceremony as a whole was positive and hopeful. Here’s  a video link we shot of Kahu Mahealani Wong blessing the construction site.

Manoa Library ground breaking & blessing

After seeing the bared remains of the Manoa Public Library and examining the plans for the new building, I knew this library tour/interview would be different from the others we’d already done. So,  Alex and I drove back to Manoa on a rainy evening to finally meet Branch Manager Christel Collins in the portables of their temporary location. There’s plenty of parking in front of Noelani Elementary and a sign just off the front gate lets you know that the Manoa Public Library has made the school it’s temporary home. There isn’t  much space inside but the staff did manage to squeeze in a couple of terminals for internet use, a small table to peruse the DVD/CD collection and enough shelves to hold a respectable selection of books in every genre. They offer the same services as usual but due to special hours and lack of space, their storytime programs are on hiatus. Christel joked at how they’ve become more of an “Express Library” and recalled how hard it was to move into such small quarters. “It was agonizing making the decision for what books to bring and what books to leave in storage. The Childrens’ Librarian had to decide ‘this book, or this book?!’.” manoa05

Usually we ask about the building itself in each location because we want to know about its history or if there’s anything unique about it architecturally. That was one question we would have to rephrase, and instead we asked Christel what she was most excited about for the new library. Among the new library’s features, Christel said she’s looking forward to the additional square footage. There will nearly be “twice the space for children, and more space for the staff in back which allows us to move materials out faster…that means better service for patrons. And the parking area will be twice as big!”.

During the blessing ceremony, the new library architect and building contractor got up to say a few words and they mentioned that Christel and the staff at Manoa Library had a lot of input into what would go into the new building. Christel elaborated that the staff suggested things like having a drive up book drop, and two different kinds of drops, one for fragile materials so that patrons can quickly return DVD’s and CD’s at their convenience.

Many were also concerned about the look of the new library. They wanted it to set an example for other “green” library renovations, but also wanted it to be a reflection of the community, instead of a big box building that overwhelms it. “The rock  in the rock walls will be the same as it was in the old library and the sloped roof will give it a residential look”.Manoamemories

“We were fortunate enough to secure the funds for this rebuild before the current financial crisis hit. We really needed it. You have to consider what the community was like when the original library was built. Manoa was different, it was a rural community with pastures… years later the library was just too small and overstuffed to meet the needs of the growing area.”

As part of the Manoa Library groundbreaking ceremony there were illustrations and handwritten notes from people and children in the neighborhood. They called them Memories of Manoa Library. “My favorite was from an older lady and a long-time patron who remembers visiting the library as a child and bringing apples and carrots with her to feed the horses nearby.” Here’s a nice blog article in the Honolulu Advertiser by Manoa resident Kristen Brummel about more “Manoa Memories” of the library.

“If the budget crisis doesn’t improve our real challenge will be how to buy new materials for the library when it reopens in 2011.” They would face problems similar to those experienced by Kapolei Library when it first opened. But Christel is optimistic about everything and is proud that they’ve already started their eco-friendly operations. She was able to keep a lot of the old furniture for use in non-public areas of the new library. This way they’ll have to spend less to furnish it.

The immediate challenges are mostly lack of space, shorter hours and staffing. The Manoa Public Library Childrens’ Librarian and one other staff member are constantly deployed to other locations to help out libraries who are short staffed. “They’re essentially doing two jobs.. double duty,” Christel explained. Right now the Manoa Public Library has a unique schedule of operations, check here for the official hours. The shorter hours are due to an agreement with Noelani Elementary to limit public disturbances during the school day.

Whatever the challenge, now or in the future, we have no doubt that the new library will be a success as long as positive and passionate people like Christel and her staff are around to see it through. Despite being cramped like sardines, having their materials stored in different places across the island, and their staff scattered about working double duty, they’re taking it all with a grain of salt and still smiling. Most of all they’re just excited about the opportunities the new library will provide for the community and its residents. They’re enthusiasm is quite contagious… I’m sure Alex and I will be one of the first to happily visit the new library when it’s done.

Thank you to Branch Manager Christel Collins and the staff at Manoa Public Library for allowing us to visit and talk! After our meeting with Christel we were gonna eat at Serg’s Mexican Kitchen on Manoa Road but it was pouring rain and we ended up at a cozy yakiniku place instead. Yummy! 😉

Christel Collins Hawaiiana Book Recommendation:

kambookChristel suggested we read Wayfinding Through the Storm (Watermark Publishing) by famous author and historian Gavan Daws. Although we talked about many interesting local books (Christel agrees with our passionate assertions that Hawaii has a unique literary community) she picked this book because Mr. Daws is a regular patron of Manoa Library and resident of the area. Stay tuned for a review!