How to build a library Part 3: Finding a construction company

Now that the demolition crew is nearly finished, we turn our attention to finding a construction company to build the library. Our first choice is a company called EIGHT DESIGN (you can check out their website here) – a Meitetsu (Nagoya Railroad) company. They have some samples of their work on their site (“cases” as they call them). They specialize in renovating old buildings (see here), and although constructing a library would probably be the first for them, I’m sure they’d do fantastic work. The biggest unknown is the cost. We are trying to set up a meeting with them, so hopefully we will have an estimate in the near future. With the coronavirus complicating so many aspects of life at the moment, whatever meeting we have, it will be held online (although at some point they will also need to send someone to come out and survey the space, with appropriate social distancing and PPE).

What if it doesn’t work out with EIGHT DESIGN? And here “to not work out” nearly exclusively refers to cost, as I’m sure they will come up with an amazing design – after all that’s what they do. If it’s too expensive, we’ll go with a cheaper option, which will probably consist of asking a company that does fairly standard work, most likely introduced by a friend of a friend of a friend. You know the drill. If I had more time and resources, I would attempt to use a version of the “37% rule”. Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths talk about this rule in “Algorithms to live by: The computer science of human decisions”. This rule states, mathematically, that when presented with multiple choices, “[a]s the […] pool [of choices] grows, the exact place to draw the line between looking and leaping settles to 37% of the pool, yielding the 37% Rule: look at the first 37% of the [options], choosing none, then be ready to leap for anyone better than all those you’ve seen so far” (Christian & Griffiths, 2016, pp. 13-14). But that seems too time-consuming and a bit overblown for our purposes. We will probably choose between one of two options: EIGHT DESIGN, or a cheaper but competent company introduced by a friend. Alas, in the real world, practicality wins over an idealized model.

This leads to the final question to be taken up here. What kind of design are we looking for? When I think of library designs, two styles instantly come to mind: a baroque style (such as the Klementinum in Prague), or a “New York” red brick style such as some of the Carnegie Libraries (here and here), although many other amazing designs exist. A baroque style is a nice fantasy that perhaps I should try to build someday in Minecraft; it is the latter, practical style, the style of the “palaces for the people” (Klinenberg, 2018) that Carnegie funded and built, that I’m interested in trying to imitate, if even just a little. I’d be happy with fake red brick wall paper with book shelves and a hot pot of coffee. But I’m rather simple. I’ll see what designs the professionals come up with and post an update when that happens.

  • Christian, B., & Griffiths, T. (2016). Algorithms to live by: The computer science of human decisions. Henry Holt and Company. Kindle Edition.
  • Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the people: How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life. Broadway Books.