The Woodstock Public Library has launched a capital campaign to raise funds for a possible acquisition of the former Library Laundromat, which the library envisions as an annex that would provide space for computer-related instruction for residents and meetings by community groups.
In a February 8 interview Stuart Auchincloss, the newly elected president of the library district’s 11-member board of trustees, reported that Ulster County, which seized the laundromat property in lieu of unpaid taxes, plans to sell it at a foreclosure auction scheduled for April 11. By law the opening bid is set at the amount of taxes due, which in this case is approximately $166,000. The purchase price will include fees and penalties. Prior to its seizure by the county, the property was owned by Library Laundromat LLC, according to Auchincloss.
At a special meeting on February 1 the board of trustees agreed to pursue the acquisition of the vacant laundromat, whose site at 6 Library Lane directly faces the library’s building and grounds, at 5 Library Lane. Friends of the Library (FOL), a nonprofit arm of the library district, will coordinate the capital campaign through its Resource Development Committee, chaired by Kim Alderman, a local artist with an interest in fundraising.
The capital campaign’s goal is roughly $200,000, which would enable the library district to compete with other bidders at the foreclosure auction. The auction rules require that 30 percent of the purchase price be paid in cash at the time of the transaction, with the remainder due within 15 days. The capital campaign is currently at a preliminary “quiet stage,” in which FOL members are approaching prospective donors before more visibly seeking contributions from the public. The “quiet” period is expected to continue for the next three weeks or so. Thus far, said Auchincloss, the campaign has received a pledge of $20,000 from one anonymous supporter.
Not until the laundromat became available did the library contemplate an expansion, and the library district’s current budget contains no funds for such a venture, said Auchincloss. The board president credited the library’s director, Amy Raff, with articulating a vision for the use of the 1,000-square-foot laundromat as an annex to the two-story library, whose gross area of about 9,000 square feet includes upstairs space devoted to storage.
Currently, said Raff in a February 8 interview, at least nine community groups hold after-business-hours meetings at the library, although the 200-year-old building, which has not been renovated since 1986, contains no dedicated meeting space. Apart from the after-hours meetings, the library is booked with regularly scheduled meetings around the clock, seven days a week, for the foreseeable future. The Woodstock Library Annex, as the expanded facility would be known, would alleviate the meetings squeeze and provide space for other community functions, such as performances.
The annex would also serve as a “mobile” and “configurable” computer and multimedia lab, with laptop computers available on a cart, where residents could receive instruction in “high-end” software applications such as computer-assisted design, geographic information systems, or even Facebook navigation, said the library director, who provided a digital document outlining the case for the library’s acquisition of the laundromat. [Raff invited residents who have questions about the venture to call her at 679-2213.]
Auchincloss described the laundromat building as being “in bad shape.” If the library succeeded in purchasing the property, it would seek to renovate the building according to the highest possible LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, on a scale developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The library would employ local contractors and designers, who — consistent with the library’s educational mission — would learn about LEED-certified construction through their work on the project.
According to Raff, a 2007 feasibility study found that the library building could not adequately meet all of the town’s demands. The study determined that the building lacked space for meetings, books, computers, and activities for children. It also concluded that the building’s electrical capacity could not accommodate the extensive use of laptop computers; its framing was unsuitable for loads imposed by a library; its heating and cooling systems were wasteful and fell short of environmental standards; and its facilities did not fully comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The library has been in operation since 1913. Woodstock residents voted to create a special district for the library in 1989. The 2012 library budget, which voters approved last September, amounts to $534,963. The board of trustees meets regularly at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. The meetings take place at the library and are open to the public.++