Unfortunately, the edifice complex afflicting the city elite inevitably leads to such ill-conceived and overblown projects as the transit mall, the civic center and the library.
In the latter case, how much more fitting it would have been to create a network of satellite reading rooms around town, backed up by an efficient distribution system. Even after the central book depository comes on line, there will still be a need for small, local, high-tech libraries. Such mini-libraries (booktiques, call them) would help to increase access to the Internet; provide more -- and more convenient -- locales for library patrons to read, study and create; encourage walking and bike riding; and save many, many unnecessary automobile trips.
Booktiques needn't be nearly as large nor as permanent as the neighborhood library branches already on Main, Montana and Ocean Park. In fact, it's better that they're not. Storefronts, warehouses, churches, community rooms, abandoned gas stations...almost any publicly accessible space could easily be converted to library uses. Once the infrastructure was put in place to deliver books physically and transmit information digitally, booktiques would be simple to set up and remove, unlike the present library configuration, giving librarians the ability to respond relatively quickly to changing demands for their services.
The next time the city council and staff sit down to divvy up budget dollars, maybe they can spare a few bucks for booktiques (imagine, if you will, that the $85 million currently being poured into the central library building was being used instead to innovate ways to relocate "the library" into every corner of the community). Creating attractive destinations for pedestrians and bikers, which is one thing booktiques would be, is a far more effective traffic mitigator, for example, than cluttering the streets with more circles, islands and bumpers at intersections.
What's needed, as it is in nearly every aspect of public life hereabouts, is the application of creative thinking. The same old same old may be a fair description of the bureaucratic safety zone, but there should be other criteria required of planning projects than that they be big and expensive and have been done before. (Published Santa Monica Mirror 2004-07-22).