(BIVN) – A Draft Environmental Assessment has been published examining the planned Keaʻau – Mountain View Public Library.
The Hawai‘i State Public Library System, along with consultant HHF Planners, is proposing to build a new, 13,900 square foot public library on a 1.7-acre site adjacent to the Keaʻau Middle School. The document says the site is on a portion of a larger 5.9-acre parcel occupied by the middle school, where the existing Kea‘au Public and School Library is also located.
From a summary of the Draft EA:
The Kea‘au-Mountain View Public Library is one of two new libraries proposed in the Puna District to replace three outdated public and school libraries co-located within school campuses. The main library space will be a flexible open area with modular furnishings that can be reconfigured as needs change. A community meeting room is provided for special functions during or after library hours, and opens to a lanai for indoor-outdoor functions. Staff areas include offices, workspace, storage, and space for Friends of the Library. Two one-way driveways will provide access to the 42-stall parking lot. Accessible walkways will connect the library to the public sidewalk and the middle school.
The Draft EA anticipates a FONSI, or Finding of No Significant Impact. A statutory 30-day public review and comment period is now underway. Comments are due by June 22, 2023.
From the Draft EA, detailing the need for a new library:
The existing Kea‘au and Mountain View libraries are aging, outdated, and unable to meet current standards for space, facilities, and technology. Both libraries are co-located on existing school campuses: the Kea‘au Public and School Library is located at Kea‘au Middle School; and Mountain View Public and School Library is at Mountain View Elementary School. The model of co-locating public libraries within schools was a design strategy implemented by the State of Hawai‘i in the 1960s and 1970s. However, their current location and modest size constrains the ability to expand resource collections, provide library patron seating and adequate staff support space. The aging facilities are also unable to support and adapt to current technological advances; provide mobile services; offer community services and events; and allow community stewardship (volunteerism, internships).
The location of a public library within a school campus also creates operational conflicts for both facilities and raises potential security issues. For example, during school hours, the Mountain View Elementary School requires library staff to escort patrons through the elementary school if they want to access the public library during school hours. Library patrons leaving the library generally return to the parking lot unescorted. Library patrons with limited mobility often have difficulty with the distance, especially if carrying books and equipment.
The existing public library at Kea‘au Middle School is situated closer to the front of the middle school campus, but library patrons are required to check in at the school office. Because library patrons must walk through the campus, interactions with students are often unavoidable (e.g., during recess). The presence of a public library is inconsistent with modern school security best practices, which strive to keep each campus secure and self-contained and limit the presence of outside visitors.
The current model of public libraries emphasizes its role as an inclusive gathering space and community hub. Expanded services for modern libraries include social spaces, flexible meeting rooms, makerspaces (collaborative workspaces), and educational opportunities for everyone. Libraries can be a crucial space for people who need help with filling out an online job application, tutoring, or access to technology. This model cannot be effectively implemented at the existing Kea‘au and Mountain View libraries with current limitations on access to the libraries.
In October 2015, the HSPLS held three initial community focus group meetings in the Puna District (one each in Kea‘au, Mountain View, and Pāhoa) to gauge public interest in a new regional library. Based on feedback from the focus group meetings, HSLPS determined that due to the size of the Puna District and the traffic flow patterns of the area, one library could not replace the three existing public libraries. HSPLS determined that instead of one library to serve the Puna District, two new libraries should be constructed; one in Pāhoa and the other in Kea‘au. The latter is the Proposed Action, construction of the Kea’au-Mountain View Public Library.