“Cool and Chic” Was a Tough Sell for This Public Library

“Cool and Chic” Was a Tough Sell for This Public Library

Hunters Point, a new library branch in Queens, is finally open.

It boasts a unique and stylish design that is a source of pride in the community. The construction project was very much over time and over budget. Although there are many reasons for this project management nightmare, it appears that measures meant to promote efficient use of taxpayers’ money had unintended consequences.

Video Spotlight: Balance between the Book and the Digital

This post is based on The New York Times article, Why Can’t New York City Build More Gems Like This Queens Library?, by M. Kimmelman, September 18, 2019, and the YouTube video, Hunters Point Library Finally Openby CBS New York, September 24, 2019. Image source:  Shutterstock / X_C

Discussion Questions:

1. What design elements make this library inviting to patrons?

Guidance: Large windows let the light in and offer beautiful views of Manhattan. Bamboo-paneled walls add warmth. Shifting forms and curves make the space interesting and pleasing to the eye. Corners and nooks provide privacy. A ginkgo garden outside creates a natural oasis in a large city. This unique and tastefully designed library contrasts with the high-density apartment buildings erected next to it and seems especially inviting to the population of the neighborhood. It is a place where people will enjoy reading and doing research.

2. What are the main reasons for the missed deadlines and cost overruns?

Guidance: The building project cost more than $40 million and took over 10 years to complete. There are multiple reasons for these problems, and some of them may reflect the writer’s bias and personal opinions. Nevertheless, the reasons fall into two main categories: bureaucracy and construction issues. The bureaucratic obstacles include complex procurement rules, lack of collaboration among agencies, costly regulations, late payments, yearly budgeting process, and perhaps a focus on cost control (e.g. lowest bidders) at the expense of quality. The construction problems mentioned in the article are typical in project management. They include loss of project champion and sponsor, labor strikes, disagreements among architects and contractors, and blame game.

3. Is it fair to blame value analysis for the delays?

Guidance: Value analysis is a sound technique aimed at reducing cost without sacrificing performance. Design is part of performance. A library is a service organization, and therefore the look of facilities and the atmosphere are important to ensure patronage. It is responsible to identify alternative materials, cheaper sourcing, and process efficiencies that will lower costs. However, the process of performing value analysis must be efficient and properly managed as well.


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