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Books offer ways to improve your neighborhood

By Rebecca Hyde
Rowan Public Library
Do you like your neighborhood? Have you noticed changes in the community? Can you imagine how it will look in the future? What features should be preserved and cultivated?
The following books describe changing patterns in the life of cities and neighborhoods and thoughts on how to improve community life.
Train your eye by taking an inventory of your own community. “Planning to Stay: Learning to See the Physical Features of Your Neighborhood,” by William R. Morrish and Catherine R. Brown, offers guidance for the nonprofessional. It focuses on the whys and hows of neighborhood preservation, based on the belief that “Some of our greatest joys come from community ó the people and places of neighborhoods we cherish.”Your goal will be to answer two questions: What is it about this place that draws us here? And what could we add to this place that will keep us here? The framework for describing the neighborhood is built around homes and their gardens, public gardens community streets, neighborhood niches and anchoring institutions. The emphasis is not on historic preservation but on preservation of what makes a place livable.
The problems of sprawl are described in “Once There Were Greenfields,” by Benfield, Rami and Chen. Sprawl has an impact on the environment, the economy and the social fabric of communities. The authors propose “smart” growth patterns, combining economic progress, social goals, and environmental protection.
“Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival,” by Paul Grogan and Tony Proscio, tells the stories of community-development organizations that have helped revitalize neighborhoods in Chicago, Houston, South Central Los Angeles and the South Bronx. The progress is fragile but encouraging.
“Skinny Streets & Green Neighborhoods,” by Cynthia Girling and Ronald Kellett, is a design book focusing on the development of new suburban “green” neighborhoods. The authors argue that it is possible “to design dense, mixed-use developments that perform at least as well as lower-density alternatives on measures of tree cover, water quality, transportation management, and infrastructure cost.”
Case studies of eight neighborhoods in the U.S. and Canada illustrate “best practices” integrating compact development and the environment. Also covered are the particular roles of urban forest and water.
Jay Walljasper’s “The Great Neighborhood Book” is a “do-it-yourself guide to placemaking.”
“At their best,” the author says, “neighborhoods function as villages, in which residents’ lives overlap in positive ways.” They are the level of social organization where people interact most regularly and naturally. Consequently, they are the ideal setting for tackling problems in a community. The book discusses the “11 principles” of placemaking and gives a sampling of improvements in making neighborhoods safe, lively, prosperous and interesting.
Children’s programs: Call 704-216-8256 for headquarter programs; 704-216-7839 for East branch; and 704-216-7727 for South Regional programs.
Tuesday movies: April is Foreign Films Movie Month at headquarters at 6:30 p.m.; movies awarded Oscars. Tuesday, “Closely Watched Trains,” April 29. Free refreshments will be served.
RPL Annual Book Sale: Saturday, May 10, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, May 11, 1-4 p.m.; Monday, May 12, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Displays: Headquarters ó art by Janie Allen and giraffes by Jan McCanless. East ó horses by Ann Furr. South ó wearable arts by Patti Schmid.Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.
Web site: For a listing of all library programs at all library locations, www.rowanpublic library.org.

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