Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
Irving dignitaries and school children broke ground for the South Irving Library on Feb. 15, making it the largest construction project in South Irving and a major step in Irving’s ongoing Renaissance. City Manager Tommy Gonzales did not pass up the opportunity to comment on how much this shows Irving’s vitality coming out of the Recession.
“When other communities are closing down facilities, we are opening up new facilities,” Gonzales said. “That’s our focus, to make sure we’re not closing down libraries; that we’re opening up new ones. That we’re not reducing the number of hours, but keeping the hours where they are.”
Mayor Beth Van Duyne congratulated South Irving on what will be the City’s most impressive library.
“We are doing what this city has promised to do. We are keeping our commitment to the environment. This is going to be the largest library that we have in the city. This is going to be our crown jewel. We are investing in South Irving,” Van Duyne said.
Beyond the new library’s cultural significance, it is a revolutionary blending of libraries’ tradition role and their place in a world, which is increasingly driven by technology. In an interview prior to the groundbreaking, Chris Dobson, the director for Irving’s public libraries, shared some of the advantages South library will have over the older Central Library. These range from easy access to wall outlets to more cutting-edge installations.
One such installment demonstrates the care that residents and civil servants alike have taken to bring a thoroughly contemporary facility to one of Irving’s oldest districts.
“We’re going to have a kiosk where you are going to be able to search the catalog and once you find your book instead of just saying it’s on the second floor, it’ll draw you a map so you’ll know [how to get to it],” Dobson pronounced proudly.
Extensive upgrades, like a multipurpose auditorium and an increased number of meeting rooms, will make South Library a better cultural epicenter than Central could ever be.
“[At Central] if we have story time going on [in the children’s room] and an event in the auditorium, that’s it; we’re booked,” Dobson remarked. “Children now are encouraged to do collaborative projects. Right now we don’t really have a place for them to do that. The study rooms we have don’t have ceilings; they aren’t really soundproofed; they only hold two people. If they take up the table [in one of the reading rooms], they have to be relatively quiet. The South library will have five study rooms of varying sizes – anywhere from two people to eight.”
While creating the designers for the new library, sharp focused was placed on optimizing the space to provide both young and old with the most comfortable and personal experience possible.
“Right now the children’s area is there on the first floor, and if a child is having a tantrum, everyone can hear it,” Dobson said. “The children’s area is going to be glassed in, so children can have a good time without disturbing everybody in the library. One of the biggest complaints we get about the Central Library building is it’s noisy.
“The teens will actually have an enclosed area so they can be as noisy as they want to be without disturbing other people. They’ll have a little privacy although it’s through the glass.”
This concept was taken a step further in the teen lounge, which, besides privacy, will boast a state-of-the-art iCreate lab.
“The iCreate lab will be a separate little room on the first floor where they will actually be able to create videos and music. We’ll have iPads and [we will] maybe be getting a Macintosh computer,” she continued. “One of the meetings rooms will have a green screen and all the lighting equipment so you can do fantastic movies.”
If this new building is beginning to sound like a Best Buy – who awarded the library a grant for the iCreate Lab – do not fear. The South Library will keep a strong emphasis on books for the bibliophiles among you who think people should go to the library to read books and to Starbucks for wifi and a power outlet.
The library’s catalog will remain relatively untouched, and the library’s designers came up with a creative way to cram the books into a building already chocked full of tech toys.
“We’ve built a basement in, and the books that aren’t checked out very regularly are put in the basement,” Dobson said. “If you need a book, you find it in the catalog, and five minutes later it’s in your hand.
“If you go to Wal-Mart, you can get a bestseller; you probably can’t buy the most recent biography of somebody unless it’s a movie star who’s in the new. The nonfiction collection is something that lasts a lot longer than the fiction collection. It’s not as subject to trends.”
Although books are still an important part of the library system, Dobson admitted that the future will likely find them less prevalent than they are today.
“In fifteen years, there may be a lot fewer physical books. We’re still going to have books for a long time, but they may not be as important a part of the collection as they are now,” she said. “We’re still going to be the place where people come for things. People come to us, not necessarily to get the book, but to find out what book to get, and that’s something that isn’t changing. That’s something that is going to be our role for a long time because we are book people.”
City Councilwoman Rose Cannaday’s words at the groundbreaking summed up libraries’ continuing relevance in the modern world.
“Libraries are the gateways to knowledge and culture, and they play a fundamental role in society. The resources and services that our libraries offer create opportunities of learning, support, literacy and education. It helps shape new ideas and perspectives that are central to a creative and innovative society. The library becomes a lifeline, particularly in these times that we’ve had with the recession, to guide those that are out of work,” she said.
Last Updated on Monday, 25 February 2013 10:08
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Will Jukes
Bowie Middle School hosted author and speaker Manuel “Manny” Scott for a series of presentations covering personal adversity, education, and mentoring on Feb. 19. The talks sought to empower students while advising parents how best to support their children in spite of the difficulties they might encounter in their personal lives. Over the course of the day Mr. Scott spoke at two school assemblies, a teacher in-service, and a parent's assembly.
Mr. Scott is notable as one of the original “Freedom Writers,” a group of students whose story, recorded in the 1999 book Freedom Writer's Diary and the 2007 film Freedom Writers, inspired the creation of the Freedom Writers Foundation, an organization dedicated to training educators and empowering students, especially those at-risk for dropping out or poor performance.
Mr. Scott personally tells of growing up in a poor home with an abusive stepfather, receiving little educational support from his mother, and using drugs from an early age, but that with the right guidance he was able to turn his life around. Mr. Scott has since gone on to earn multiple degrees and establish himself as successful writer and public speaker who has brought the message that changed his life to a broader audience. He is currently working on a doctorate in Intercultural Studies at Trinity International University in Chicago.
But despite his association with Freedom Writers and the educational aspect to the message he delivered at Bowie, Mr. Scott sees his mission as having a broader focus.
“I started out just talking about Freedom Writers, and talking about a teacher's impact on our lives and the way we used writing to turn our lives around, but the more I spoke, the more I realized you know what, it's not about Freedom Writers, it's about the needs of these kids...it's about us helping others write the next chapter in their lives.”
In his presentation to parents, Mr. Scott expanded on this with a talk emphasizing the parent's role in providing a stable home environment, caring about education and forming effective partnerships with teachers. He spoke frankly about his experiences living with an abusive stepfather (“I saw him take my mom by the back of her head and shove her head through the window.”) in a household that gave him easy access to drugs and in a family apathetic about his education. He contrasted this with his own experiences raising a family, and tried to impress the importance of parents taking personal responsibility for their own lives, as well as involving themselves in the lives of their children.
Despite the difficulties of coordinating such a large event, teachers and faculty at Bowie Middle School were very excited for the opportunity to host Mr. Scott for the day.
“I've done events something like this, not of this magnitude, so I knew how to coordinate it,” said Connie Cooley, academic specialist at Bowie Middle School. “You need a really good team, and that's what I had.”
Ms. Cooley has been trying to arrange to have Mr. Scott speak at the school since she saw him speak at a National After School Association conference in 2012.
“I knew he had to come speak to our kids.” She also expressed confidence that Mr. Scott's visit will have a lasting impact on the school and the community, saying “We're going to have some results that are quantitative, and also qualitative.”
Last Updated on Monday, 25 February 2013 09:48
Written by Phil Cerroni
North Lake College (NLC) has been awarded the LEED® Silver Certification for its Student Life Center. Established by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.
North Lake College first sought certification for its Student Life Center in November 2007- the same year former NLC President Dr. Herlinda Glasscock signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. This institutional commitment manifested itself in several ways, including sustainable construction strategies, aggressive energy conservation policies and a greener campus. Now, five years later, North Lake continues to model new ways to achieve climate neutrality. In fact, the college is even integrating sustainability directly into their curriculum with the first ‘green’ diploma.
“We take sustainability seriously and we're in it for the long haul,” NLC Director of Facilities John Watson said. “While there are no specific [construction] projects on the immediate horizon, incorporating LEED planning principles well in advance is very important.”
North Lake’s recent LEED certification was based on a number of green design and construction features that positively impact the campus itself and the broader community.
By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community. Other NLC buildings to receive certification include the Science and Medical Professions Buildings and the Workforce Development Center.
Source: North Lake College
Last Updated on Monday, 25 February 2013 09:46
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
After more than a year of getting to know each other, talks and tiffs, AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, Inc., and US Airways Group, Inc. formally announced their intention to merge on Valentine’s Day. Love was in the air at DFW Airport as representatives of both sides described the union, which will have an implied combined equity value of approximately $11 billion.
Don Jensen, an AA veteran of almost thirty years who is still has strong ties to the airline, agreed to share his experience, insights and predictions concerning the future of his beloved company.
The first question Jensen addressed is one that often leaps into the minds of thrifty, prudent or downright hypochondriac travelers: how will the merger affect their ticket price?
“[I am] fairly cautiously pleased with the way things are going,” Jensen said. “When all this wrinkles out, I’m hoping that Delta and United achieve a seat-mile cost that is lower than Southwest’s, and I think that we have the same opportunities … American was suffering from a [bigger] cost disadvantage than all the other players in the field. Hopefully this new reorganization is going to address that seat-mile cost.
“It’s a price sensitive world that the airlines live in. That seat is sitting there – when they close the door, it’s absolutely worthless – If it’s not filled then you can’t go back and get anything out of it later.”
With new routes around the world opening on what seems like a weekly basis, Jensen is positive that American is preparing to blaze its fair share of new trails.
“International operations are a very important part of today’s airlines, and DFW is one of American’s strongest hubs. Our location in the region and in the country is absolutely tremendous,” he beamed. “I think we’ll be stronger in our gateway to South America. US Air is going to add to that, and we’re one of the strongest carriers down there now.”
The merger is also good for employees, an important first step for what Jensen predicts will be an amiable redistribution of power.
“Our pilots’ group [is] looking at it as a pretty positive step. We feel that this merger is going to probably achieve one of the better integrations of the employee groups,” Jensen said. “The agreements they’ve worked out with the management at American and US Air has … turned [out] slightly better than it appeared it was going to.”
The benefits don’t just flow to the airline’s customers and employees, however. AA’s massive expansion should pump more capital into the DFW area.
“DFW Airport provides just in the neighborhood of $17 billion a year for the region – it’s the most significant revenue generator in our region,” Jenson said. “American Airlines has been, along with Eagle, over 70 percent of the operations there, and under the new arrangement I think it will be closer to 80 percent.”
These expansions will not come without some growing pains, however.
“It’s not going to be a simple process – it’s not over,” warned Jensen. “As a matter of fact, the two carriers are gonna be operating independently [for a while] – I don't think the ink on these contracts [is] going to be finished till sometime in the latter part of this year. I think integrating employee groups is difficult. American experienced concerns in employee groups with the TWA, acquisition and [the] merger.”
Jensen also hinted that the complex task of shuffling the airline’s new slots may develop into a sticky situation.
“You can only have so much traffic at a place like Washington National or LaGuardia. Slots are what they call your ability to come in at 10:00 in the morning with an airplane, have a gate and leave. [It] is controlled because there are a limited number of entryways through New York City or Washington airspace, just like there is here.
Jensen closed the interview by exhorting North Texans to be grateful for what AA has done for the region and to be supportive of its future ventures.
“I don’t believe that the general folks in the region realize what a jewel it is to have a company like American – a big carrier … that’s a strong link for both domestic and international operations – working here. As a headquarters company, it [is] really positive for our region.”
Last Updated on Monday, 25 February 2013 09:43
Written by Phil Cerroni
The City of Coppell is opening a one-stop development and property improvement resource center designed to meet the needs of citizens seeking to make property improvements and potential development partners bringing new business to the city. Beginning March 4, the Engineering, Planning, and Building Inspection Departments will relocate to 265 E. Parkway Blvd., adjacent to the Coppell Town Center (City Hall). Placing these three departments in the same facility aids the City with providing a higher level of service to citizens and business partners who need assistance regarding anything related to the development, permitting and code compliance processes.
The departments will begin moving Feb. 28 while still remaining operational. Regular business will resume for the departments on March 4. The move will provide development services with 12,000 square-feet of space where all relevant approvals can be provided at one convenient location.
Currently, Engineering and Planning are located in Town Center. Building Inspections is located at 500 Southwestern Blvd.
“Having the departments separated in the current situation makes it hard on people who need to work with all three departments,” stated director of Engineering and Public Works, Ken Griffin. “Moving these three critical entities onto the Town Center campus will make it much easier for developers to take care of business with the City.”
Working as a team, staff will be able to provide a more coordinated, streamlined and customer-friendly approach when launching development projects in Coppell.
The building at 265 E. Parkway will eventually house Fire Administration, which is now located at 500 Southwestern Blvd. Parks and Recreation Administration will move to Town Center at 255 E. Parkway Blvd.
“The goal is to have all of our administrative offices on the Town Center campus,” said city manager Clay Phillips. “Moving Fire, Building Inspections, and Parks to this campus accomplishes this goal. The consolidation of administrative offices in a central area will not only enable staff to work much closer, it will also allow citizens and the business community the opportunity to come to the Town Center campus for all municipal services.”
Once the moves are complete, the City expects to sell the Southwestern Boulevard building.
Source: City of Coppell
Last Updated on Monday, 25 February 2013 09:41
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