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Library trustees present three alternatives for expansion

August 05, 2010
WOLFEBORO — The Wolfeboro Public Library Board of Trustees made a presentation of "conceptual plan" alternatives for expanding the library at a public hearing at the library on Wednesday evening, July 28.

This was the second presentation the trustees have made as part of a process of keeping library users informed of the plans as they are developed and receiving public comments and questions on the alternatives being considered. The first was held on Saturday, May 22.

Board Chair John Sandeen gave an overview of the process that led to the presentation being given that night. In 2004 the trustees became aware that library resources were being stretched and hired a consultant to assess the facility and project what would be required for the next 20 years. The consultant reported that, based on usage and 2000 census data, the library needed to expand from the 10,500 square feet in the current facility, opened in 1979, to 20,000 square feet – nearly double.

Sandeen pointed out that the library did not rush into an expansion, but rather tried to find ways to make better use of existing space. A number of steps were taken, but they were not enough to make a difference. Then in 2008, the library's neighbor to the south, Ida Glidden, agreed to sell her abutting property. Sandeen said the lot was purchased with library building funds accumulated over time from bequests to the library.

In March 2010 voters approved funds to develop conceptual plans for a new or expanded library, and the firm of Johnson Roberts Associates was chosen from among 17 bids to prepare the plans. Johnson Roberts met with the trustees, staff and Friends of the Library to develop alternatives. Following internal reviews, a wide number of options was whittled down to three by the Building Committee, made up of staff, trustees and Friends, which Sandeen thanked for narrowing the choices.

Candy Thayer, Building Committee Chair, spoke next. She said the 2005 usage study was updated in March and April, and that the committee's goal was to determine what is possible using the two available lots and evaluate how well the proposed plans would meet the needs. The committee has now narrowed the options down to three. After getting public feedback the next step will be to develop floor plans and then bid documents to get cost estimates. In addition to receiving feedback at the meeting, Thayer pointed out that library users can put their comments in the suggestion box at the library or make comments through the library Web site.

Library Director Cindy Scott gave the facts and figures behind the need to expand. The library itself was 110 years old and moved to its current location in 1979. At that time the library had 25,000 items and a capacity of 40,000, and 64 seats for users. In 2010 the library has 55,000 items and 65 seats. Between 2002 and 2009 borrowings increased by 10,000 to 110,000 (and have increased five percent so far this year), Internet use has grown from 3,000 to 9,000 uses, and visits to the library have increased from 58,000 to 85,000. New media, such as compact discs, DVDs and audiobooks have come along and grown in use.

To cope with this the library has weeded vigorously: for every new book added, an old one has to be removed; to make room for DVDs, videocassettes are removed. Staff have also moved furniture to make room. The facility itself has been upgraded with new air conditioning and carpet, a new sidewalk, a handicapped-accessible bathroom and a new driveway.

Scott pointed out that the building was not designed for current technology, and there are not enough electrical outlets. Staff workspaces are used for storage and there is no privacy.

What she is looking for in a new library is a designated children's room, expanded technology for users and staff, two small meeting spaces in addition to the main meeting room to allow for privacy and quiet, a local history room, more space for new books that will allow face-out presentation, space for the Friends of the Library, more storage space, more work spaces for staff, more space for book stacks, more seating and workspace for readers, and more parking. Scott also said she wants flexibility in design to change spaces when future needs require it.

She concluded by pointing out that the trustees are not planning to complete a new library or an expansion for another five years, so she and her staff have to be prepared to continue to cope until then.

Expansion options

Stewart Roberts of Johnson Roberts made a PowerPoint presentation on the three conceptual alternatives that the trustees are now considering. He said at the outset that all of the plans are preliminary – enough to assess how the approach would work but lacking in details. All three proposals are for one-floor designs and add pitched roofs.

The three alternatives are:

1. Addition and renovation. This approach would keep the current library building but construct additions on the front (toward Main Street) and the south side (onto the Glidden property). Roberts pointed out that due to the way the original building was constructed, you can't add openings in the cinderblock walls, and the existing flat roof is an issue.

The design places a circulation desk in the middle of the new space, equally spaced between new front (street) and back (parking lot) entrances. A separate children's room would be on the north side, where, unfortunately there will be a lack of windows for most of the space, but the area would be separate.

There would be three public meeting spaces, one larger than the current room and two smaller. All would be accessible when the library is closed, as is the current arrangement.

2. Build a new building, but keep the existing building for other uses. A new building would be constructed on the Glidden property and, once completed, the library would move into the new building and turn over the current facility to the town for another use. As in the first design there would be two entrances with a central desk. The children's room would be closer to the street but with plenty of windows, and the book stacks would be placed on the south side.

Parking would increase the least with this plan, from 56 to 85 spaces.

3. Demolish the old building and build a new library. In this design the children's room would once again be on the north side, as in the first proposal, but with plenty of windows. Parking spaces would increase from 56 to 200.

Roberts pointed out that options two and three could provide for a second floor. He said that two two-floor designs were considered, but library staff prefers a single floor as being more efficient with existing staff.

Questions followed Roberts' presentation.

One asked why not two floors? Sandeen answered that the second floor would have to be built sturdier to support stack loads, and more staff would be needed. Thayer said that the committee actually looked at six two-floor designs and one one-and-a half floor design.

Sandeen said additional staff would be needed for all three plans – two more staff for the doubled space. Two floors would require more staff.

Sandeen pointed out that two of the proposals (additions and demolishing the exisiting building) would require moving staff and materials to another location during construction. The second proposal, a new building on the Glidden lot, has the advantage of not disrupting library service or requiring a move.

Suzanne Ryan suggested that the board consider a second floor dedicated to public uses and thus not requiring the loads of book stacks. She also questioned how the new meeting space being added at Kingswood would affect plans: Sandeen replied that the main meeting space proposed would be larger than the current space but far smaller than the Kingswood auditorium, holding 100-125 people. Ryan also said she would like to see more parking by building closer to the designated wetland on the Glidden lot.

In response to a question about funding, Sandeen said that once the trustees have firm estimates they will attempt to raise 50 percent of the cost from voluntary contributions, adding that the building would not be constructed until 2016.

Josephine Amatucci, who has made a proposal to selectmen to build a new town hall on the library lot, asked a number of questions and suggested that either a town hall could be built onto the library as an addition or that a town hall could be built on the site more cheaply and the library could then move into Brewster Hall. Sandeen said he respectfully disagreed.

The next step in the process is for the trustees to review the comments and determine which of the options to pursue, with the goal of reaching a decision in October.

A DVD of the presentation, recorded by Wolfeboro Community TV, is available at the library.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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