As the City of Dallas prepared to design its newest library, they knew that community outreach & buy-in would be critical.
Years before, another plan for a library on this same site had been proposed with the library and community space as part of a higher-density mixed use complex. The neighborhood objected to the proposal and the project failed to take off.
The City of Dallas included the new branch library in its 2017 bond funding package and it was time to begin the design phase again. With anticipation of a new library for this highly diverse and low-income neighborhood, the new Vickery Meadow Branch Library Children &Teen Center was also selected as the beneficiary of the annual Chrystal Charities Ball & Fundraiser.
We teamed up with DSGN Architects and started work almost immediately. As we quickly found out, this neighborhood is very organized with dozens of nonprofits offering a range of services for the many international refugee individuals and families placed here. There's also a very large population of Spanish-speaking residents.
We knew our engagement would include typical community meetings at the adjacent school, adjacent church, and throughout the community. But we also knew we needed to do something different - to reach the many people who would be at work during our meetings, or who may not speak English well enough to confidently participate. Among residents, over 40 languages and dialects are spoken. There was no way we could translate our way to better communication.
Another insight was that this property was already used by many individuals - walking to the bus or train, walking with kids to and from school, barbecuing and drinking, loitering and yes, even living.
We took this opportunity to engage directly with these individuals who would likely not be attending our community meetings. We designed a colorful, attention-grabbing set of banners to install on the site, directly in front of an intersection where a main thoroughfare T'ed into our project site. Surely, we thought, people would be curious to know what's going on here.
Each banner highlighted a specific question, mirroring questions on the survey and the meeting boards. At the top of each, black and white stick figures depicted how to register preferences. Scroll through the images above to see some of the panels.
We also set up a booth at the neighborhood's annual Festival of Lights celebration, a non-religious community event for kids and neighborhood groups to perform, celebrate the winter holidays - and host our Library Ground Breaking Event!
Our team spoke to dozens to visitors, receiving feedback on amenity preferences through our survey (in English & Spanish) as well as our visual-based meeting boards. The sun set early that chilly December afternoon but we were in high spirits, celebrating the season and receiving great input from neighbors and local staff, many of whom live in the neighborhood.
We even walked to nearby businesses, posting fliers about the art survey installation and chatting with business owners about the library and what spaces and services they would like to see there.
A basic website provided upcoming engagement announcements, an online survey, an email list sign up, and project location and timeline information.
In April 2019 we held our final community meeting presenting design and plans at the neighborhood church.
The Dallas Morning News lauded this new library, like no other in Dallas. It's more than a home for books and resources, The Dallas Public Library team is creating this building into a community gathering space, activity center, and hub for service providers in the neighborhood. Construction began a few months later and we can't wait for it to open, to celebrate with the incredible people we met here.