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Friday, June 05, 2009

Darien Library- transparency in action

I am always touting the need for transparency in our communication with the public and often I hear that libraries are deathly afraid that horrible things will happen if they allow our customers to voice their opinions publicly.  Here's a great example of how transparency plays out when people don't agree with a policy.

Not only are they green, but Darien Library is transparent.  After posting signs for preferred parking for hybrid cars, they heard feedback that people were confused and maybe even a little upset over the new arrangement.

Of course it never helps when the
NY Times runs an article with these kind of comments:

"Some people thought the library was making a political statement and did not understand it was part of the model for LEED application,” Ms. Berry said. “I think they thought we were making more than a green statement.”
Zengo, 74, who has lived in Darien for 36 years, said he was outraged by the library’s decision to designate special spots for hybrid vehicles. A retired banker who drives a 1994 Cadillac, he said the spots were discriminatory.

“Why should someone who can afford that kind of car suddenly get special treatment?” Mr. Zengo said. “I have no problem with parking spaces for the elderly or for a young parent with an infant or handicapped drivers. But this is over the top. What about somebody who can’t afford to go out and buy a fuel-efficient car or somebody with a large family that has to drive an S.U.V.? They suffer. It’s not fair.” 

But Darien isn't only about new ideas, they are also about being responsive to feedback and sure enough posted this to their blog that same day:

"Today's Connecticut section of the New York Times features an article about Darien Library's hybrid parking spots.  The article references the feedback on our website about the spots and the confusion surrounding the types of vehicles that our users are encouraged to park in them.

After considering the feedback, we'd like to clarify several issues and make you aware of some of the changes we've made in response.

  • The preferred parking spots are not exclusively for hybrid cars, even though the sign says so.  They are meant to be used by environmentally-friendly vehicles.  Please see the list of 474 cars that are LEED certified for eligibility for preferred parking.
  • No punitive action is taken when a non-preferred vehicle parks in a preferred spot.

    If no other parking space is available, we invite visitors to park in those spots, regardless of the type of vehicle they're driving.

    The preferred parking spaces are part of a larger "green building" initiative that includes a number of proactive steps that the library has taken to benefit the environment. 

    Dot Kelly, one of our board members, recently wrote an article that explains the LEED gold certification process. In response to comments and feedback, we have already moved three preferred parking spaces away form the building into the middle of the parking lot.  Additionally, because of the confusion caused by the wording of our current signs ("Preferred parking for hybrid vehicles"), we have ordered new signs that will simply say "Preferred Parking" and feature a car with a green leaf (see image).  The signs are designed to allow our visitors to make the determination as to whether they are entitled to park in those spots.  Though we hope that our users will respect the preferred parking, we want everyone who comes to the library to feel welcomed and apologize if our current signs sent a message to the contrary.

    Our new signs will be installed before the end of the month..."

Ah the beauty of authentic, responsive communication. For any library worried that being transparent will create problems, this a perfect example of how in fact it helps to resolve problems. Hats off to Darien Library! 

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