Mining the library for gold


Not the triangulation of mathematics, nor of politics, nor even of marketing; I’m speaking of the triangulation of uses that generate, cross-pollinate, and multiply activity in an area.

I always thought the best location for the Logan Square Library, which was once tucked away in a residential area, would be on Milwaukee Avenue in the midst of commercial activity and “el”/subway stations. Unfortunately, the powers that be decided on a different location, in the middle of the block on a four-lane street. Fullerton Avenue is also a commercial street, but the library is located next to some residential two-flats (another two-flat was even demolished for the library’s construction). The four lanes of traffic make it unlikely that library patrons will brave car traffic to cross the street for shopping, and, while within walking distance and midway between two “el” stations, the library is not visible from either station.

Logan Square LibraryIf located on Milwaukee Avenue, however, patrons of the library could shop at local stores, and train riders and shoppers could also stop in at the library–a triangulation of activities.

Oh well, that ship has sailed. However badly located, there is a lovely new library in Logan Square. The trick is to work with what you’ve got.


I learned from Cheri, the branch manager, that the Logan Square Library had nearly 20,000! visits in the month of April. That’s a lot of visits! So, how to get those people to visit Milwaukee Avenue as well? How to mine the library for gold the people that visit each month?

At the same time, Cheri was inquiring about how and if it was worth the effort to get more adults involved in library activities such as book clubs. Not that adults don’t use the library, but they are less likely than kids to be involved in the library’s planned activities.

I’ve known of some book club meetings at the library, but never participated. I’ve never joined or participated in any book club for that matter. Don’t really know how they work. Never really had a desire to discuss the fiction I read.

However, I do think it would be interesting to discuss ideas put forth in non-fiction books. These days I probably read a lot more non-fiction than fiction anyway. So I proposed an idea to Cheri: have a book club discussion about a non-fiction book that might have some insights for the revitalization of Milwaukee Avenue (see Deep Economy post), literally bring people and the discussion from the library to Milwaukee Avenue businesses, and patronize Milwaukee Avenue businesses to boot!

If this is successful and there is continued interest, there are plenty of other books for future discussions in the context of Milwaukee Avenue and Logan Square. Success will be 1) getting people to realize just how close Milwaukee Avenue businesses are to the library and that they can easily walk to them (that’s why Logan Square Walks is on board too) and 2) generating ideas about how to improve Milwaukee Avenue and the local economy.


One Response to Mining the library for gold

  1. next year’s Main Street conference is in Chicago. Maybe I can come and check your area out. Libraries are key to revitalization, key activity generators. I write a lot about this, and have to deal with DC’s totally messed up dealing with this.

    In Portland, the Northeast Library is on the corner of a commercial street, and dresses its windows like a store.

    As far as your book discussion goes, this is a great idea. My favorite book (if people are only going to read one) is probably _Cities: Back from the Edge_. It’s like a primer based on _Death and Life_, but with more case studies/stories to make the specifics more understandable.

    Then you could follow it with _Creating a Vibrant City Center_ by Cy Paumier.

    For advocates, another great book is published by the Main Street Center, _Marketing an Image for Main Street_. It really explains a couple of the key building blocks of what has to be done to revitalize a commercial district (data and market study, positioning statement, focus on niches with potential).

    Your writings are very good. Thanks for linking. I’ll do the same.

    Richard: Thanks for the suggestions and the link in your blog today! I’ll keep you posted on how the book club goes. ~ Lynn

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