Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Ithaca Journal: Building a new Tompkins library, with Legos



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By Simon Wheeler
May 28, 2016

From left, Michael Perelstein 8, Terry Wang, 9, work with Peter McCracken all of Ithaca, to find a piece to complete one kit of the Lego model of the Tompkins County Public Library. McCracken, a library trustee, is organizing the building of the model library of the future.

Peter McCracken of Ithaca was working hard managing 100,000 Lego bricks on a recent Saturday at the Tompkins County Public Library.

McCracken, who is on the library's board of trustees, and his 12-year-old son, Andrew, are running the library foundation's ongoing Lego build fundraiser.

For a $50 donation anyone can take home a kit of about 200 bricks along with instructions and build a section of what will become a large Lego model of the library. Each assembled kit is then brought back to the library and it is installed in a one-of-a-kind, 6-foot by 6-foot model of the library. The model is a reimagining of what the library will look like after a renovation to be completed in 2017.

As with many complicated projects not everything was running smoothly on this Saturday. Assembled kits were brought back and they didn't always fit perfectly into the larger structure. McCracken and his son dug into a cardboard box of extra bricks, filling the air with the sound of hard plastic Lego bits being stirred.

McCracken got the idea for the Lego library model after his family visited Durham Cathedral in England in summer 2015. Andrew spotted a sign advertising a Lego build where, for a payment of one pound, visitors could buy one brick to add to a Lego model of the cathedral.

That led the father-son to discuss building a Lego mini figure scale-model of the Ithaca Commons.

"A mini figure, without any hat on, is four bricks tall," said Andrew, of the approximately 1/48 scale of the system.

But realizing the Commons would have "a billion really flat bricks," Andrew said they decided to build the public library because it is so big "we could do a lot of stuff building it."

"Kids love Legos and it's an opportunity to give to the library, so it's kind of win-win, it's two things that we wanted to do anyway," said Peter McCracken.

Fundraising campaign

The Lego build is the final stage of the library's $2.75 million fundraising campaign, according to Susan Smith Jablonski, executive director of the TCPL Foundation. The foundation plans to raise $25,000 through the Lego build.

Launched in November 2014, the campaign's two main goals are to create a new teen space and a digital lab — including a maker space, computers in a classroom, and computer work stations for collaborative and individual work. There will also be an emphasis on making English as a second language services available.

The teen space will have flexible and comfortable seating and technology resources for teens to use for homework help, said Library Director Susan Currie. The collection of teen material will be expanded to add new material.

Also, as part of the renovation, an office will be built for the Tompkins County historian, Currie said.

From left, Peter McCracken, Michael Perelstein, 8, Terry Wang, 9, and McCracken's son Andrew, 12, all of Ithaca, work to assemble the Lego mini figure scale model of the Tompkins County Public Library. (Photo: SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)
The opportunity to reconfigure the popular library arose when the Finger Lakes Library System moved to its own building in the Town of Dryden. This opened up a previously non-public area at the southeast corner of the Ithaca library building for reuse.

The final layout of the redesigned library is not yet set, as the library staff work with Tompkins County and an architect to create the design. In addition Tompkins County has committed to replacing the heavily worn carpet throughout the public areas of the library, Currie said.

The Lego model represents the current state of thinking about where all the new spaces might fit in.

While the fundraising campaign has already reached its goal, Smith Jablonski said the actual total will determine if any additional improvements can be included in the final redesign plans.

A campaign celebration will be held 4 to 6 p.m. June 18 when the fundraising total will be announced and the completed Lego model will be revealed. Contributions will be taken until June 30, Smith Jablonski said.

Nine-year-old Terry Wang watches as 12-year-old Andrew McCracken puts a wall into place. The doors in the wall are the entrance to the Ezra Cornell Reading Room at the at the far end of the Avenue of Friends from the entrance. (Photo: SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)

Currie would like to add two public meeting rooms to the library. These rooms, holding 15 or 20 people respectively, exist behind walls that would need to be reconfigured. With the addition of new furniture and display equipment, the rooms would be available to the public just as the BorgWarner Room is currently reserved.

"We just can't meet the demand for meeting space as it is," said Currie.

Also on the additional items wish list is a local history reading room surrounding the county historian's office.

A first for Bright Bricks

As much as the redesign of the library is a work in progress, the Lego model of the library of the future is, too. The English company Bright Bricks, which specializes in one-off Lego creations including Durham Cathedral, is creating the Lego library. Even McCracken doesn't know what it will look like when it is complete.

McCracken pulled his son out of summer camp when a opportunity arose to meet Bright Bricks co-owner Ed Diment on a visit to Ithaca in August 2015 to discuss the project.

MIchael Perelstein 8, of Ithaca, works to assemble his section of the wall of the Lego model of the Tompkins County Public Library. (Photo: SIMON WHEELER / Staff Photo)

"We're very lucky to have an amazing trustee and honorary trustee" said Currie talking about McCracken and his son.

Approximately 400 component kits are being offered as part of the Lego build. About 150 have not yet arrived in Ithaca. Bright Bricks custom-made the model based on provided plans, photographs taken by McCracken and descriptions of how the staff think the future building might look.

According to Smith Jablonski, Bright Bricks has never done a project like this before where individuals each build section of the finished piece at home.

Eight-year-old Michael Perelstein of Ithaca came on a recent Saturday to collect his kit but, rather than take it home, he built it on a table next to the model with help from fellow Belle Sherman student Terry Wang.

His mother Anindita Banerjee said she thought the project was important as even small children could feel like stakeholders through the act of putting bricks together.

"I just really like Legos" said Michael, who said he has a lot of Legos at home.

Get involved

There are several ways you can get your hands on some of the bricks and help build.

  • Buy a kit: Modules are $50 each and are limited. To reserve a kit, click on the TCPL LEGO Build icon at www.tcplfoundation.org/.
  • Buy a few bricks: For $1 at the Ithaca Festival, you can add a few bricks to one of several modules to be built at the library foundation's festival booth.
  • Limited edition kits: If you want something to keep as a permanent memento, the library foundation will soon be selling two limited edition kits. One is a miniature version of the library building ($60)and the other is a set of bookshelves and a book cart ($30).

For more information, contact Tompkins County Public Library Foundation Executive Director Suzanne Smith Jablonski at 607-272-4557 ext. 231 or ssmithjablonski@tcpl.org.

The Tompkins County Public Library Foundation is selling limited edition Lego kits of the library for $60. (Photo: Tompkins County Public Library Foundation)

Source: The Ithaca Journal

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