The Tidewater Community College/City of Virginia Beach Joint-Use Library. Tidewater Community College

Libraries designed to serve both universities and local communities can be a benefit for cities.

When representatives of Virginia Beach Public Library and Tidewater Community College met to discuss building a joint-use library, they set about by listing every single reason why one library would never be big enough for the both of them. Students need quiet and seclusion to study and Tinder. Parents need bright, centralized areas where their kids can go bonkers. The city and college agreed to disagree.

Planners from the city and college didn’t leave it at that, though. Committees considered each conflict in turn until staffers from the city and college felt that there weren’t any outstanding questions left, according to Library Journal. Built for $43 million (with the college picking up 80 percent of the cost), the library features study-focused spaces along its second floor and popular-interest and kid-geared areas on its first floor.

“Joint-use libraries, especially partnerships between public libraries and colleges, are rare but not unheard of,” reads the report. The Tidewater Community College/City of Virginia Beach Joint-Use Library made it onto Library Journal’s list of landmark libraries (as an honorable mention). So did a few other joint-use libraries. The model might be especially useful for making productive use out of town-gown frictions.    

Inequality is tricky to measure in college towns. As Ben Casselman explained for FiveThirtyEight last year, the Census Bureau doesn’t consider loans when it estimates student income, for example. So college towns, with their disproportionately high student populations, tend to register as poorer than they actually are. Students, who benefit from forms of income that don’t show up in official accounting, bring down the city’s median income—against which they often look privileged by comparison, thanks to parental support.

The Tidewater Community College/City of Virginia Beach Joint-Use Library features boardwalks and native grasses useful for local and college communities alike. (TCC)

In fact, inequality may be better expressed by a lack of access. Especially in the increasingly customer-driven model of American university systems, students have incredible access to amenities and resources that don’t exist at the local level. Other examples of joint-use libraries (from Library Journal’s list of exemplary libraries from the past few years) include a Warrensville Heights, Ohio, public library (which shares the facility with a YMCA) and the San Diego Central Library (which hosts a four-year public high school on site).  

All of these joint-use models could serve college towns, especially in small cities such as Prairie View, Texas, where the town-and-gown divide runs more like a fault line. Even in larger cities, planning a joint-use library with a major university might help absorb some of the costs associated with building a major central library or expanding along the spokes of system libraries.  

Students and families share the The Tidewater Community College/City of Virginia Beach Joint-Use Library, but not necessarily space within the library. (TCC)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

  3. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California's Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over unoccupied homes in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

  4. Environment

    The City Known for ‘Sewer Socialists’ Actually Has Great Sewers

    Milwaukee now averages a mere 2.4 combined sewer overflows a year, thanks to a massive underground tunnel, green infrastructure, and flood-control measures.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×