Points of view, The Library Annex: Admiring our treasured past while moving forward

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

by Michael Hunt, President and Jen DeLisio, Treasurer, The Friends of the Woodstock Library

 

Imagine standing on Tinker Street looking at the Woodstock Library. There is Dr. Hall’s office in the original building; look at those 18 wooden stars over his window representing a smaller, older United States. See Mrs. Weyl in 1927 dedicating the new library to her deceased husband Walter, co-founder of The New Republic. Next you’re standing on the crowded lawn during the 25th Annual Library Fair as artist John Pike leads a group in a beautiful summer jam. It’s 1969 now…there’s Levon Helm walking Robbie Robertson in to study Civil War history. In all these scenes, as every year passes towards today, the building expands — four times since that original structure was built. Like much of Woodstock, the library started as a small house, increasing its size after multiple expansions. The Library grew as Woodstock did, as the quest for knowledge and community increased. The building doesn’t serve as reminder of the past; it just is what it is, which is to serve the community of today.

And today, everything does happen at the Library. It is the welcoming, thriving heart of Woodstock, with over 5,500 cardholders and as many as 400 users a day. It’s alive with intellectual activity, and it reflects Woodstock’s values of inclusiveness and community engagement. Since 2007, Library visits have increased by 43 percent and participation in Library programs has grown by 73 percent. In addition to our wide range of children and adult programming, 15 local groups vie for meeting space and others are turned away on a weekly basis. The Library is a busy and crowded community hub, rich with resources but lacking the space to support current and future needs.

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Our purpose is clear: “So that vitality, stability, enlightenment and literacy may grow in our community, the Library will provide free and equal access to information, intellectual freedom, quality library service and responsiveness to community needs.”

Supporting a healthy, thriving library adds to our quality of life index. By every measure, a community with a strong library is a healthier and more prosperous one. The rate of return to the taxpayer for the services provided is the one of the leanest, most efficient uses of your hard-earned money. So how do we continue to maintain such a valued piece of our community with limited space? How do we find the space and access to technology that’s needed if our beloved library is to keep pace with the 21st century?

It’s not prudent use of taxpayer or donated money and not wise to do another expansion at this time. So we prepare a yearly budget that properly maintains the integrity of the building; we reconfigure rooms, adding and moving shelves, shifting parts of the collection to maximize space. We repair and replace parts of the roof, inspect the foundation for load stress, and remodel the upstairs children’s area. We employ an expert caretaker who lovingly maintains our library.

The leaders of the library — the director, an elected board of trustees, volunteers — manage the present with an eye towards the future. An opportunity comes our way; we acquire the laundromat property with support of dozens of people — The Friends, Trustees, government officials and donors. We decide to build an environmentally friendly space — the Annex — that will tread lightly on the earth. At the same time we will keep our library building as is (no plans for tearing anything down). We will remain open, offering all services uninterrupted throughout the entire process.

The process is and will remain public, ethical and legal. The Library exercised its legal right for exemption from the Planning Board process, which was unanimously approved by the Town Board. We are moving through the Department of Environmental Conservation permitting process. It’s a long, complicated road but we’ve rolled up our sleeves and we’re doing the work to make it happen. This progression is open and transparent, as full of sunshine as the Annex will provide users on a shiny bright day. The Director’s door is always open; Trustees meetings allow for public comment.

With prudence, fairness and integrity, a selection committee sorted through 18 proposals, interviewed six architects — many local — and made a decision. Joel Sanders Architect was hired because it exhibited the most interest and understanding of the project’s needs and has the most relevant experience. It’s a world-renowned firm with a forward-thinking reputation that specializes in integrating design with environment

The estimated budget for everything — construction, landscaping, and furniture — is $1.6 million. We will raise it without taxpayer money. There will be large gifts from generous donors. “Pocket change philanthropists” from around the world will give a few dollars to be part of that Woodstock Spirit. We will also apply for state grants.

We acknowledge concerns of the unknown future operating costs. It would be unfair to attempt an estimate of a future number with so many variables. We believe that whatever it will be, it will provide tremendous value that far exceeds the cost.

As designed, the proposed building is functional, sustainable and accessible. Imagine yourself once again on Tinker Street, looking at a newly built Annex. With a modest height and footprint, the Annex is no taller than our library and similar in size to neighboring homes on Library Lane. The white siding and gray wood porches take inspiration from the Library.

The design accommodates the Library’s 21st-century needs while its scale and materials are in keeping with the surroundings.We take a dormant footprint and, as our children practice at school, we will reuse, reduce and recycle that footprint into what will become the cultural epicenter of Woodstock.

The Annex will bring information from the outside world into our creative community, enlivening Woodstock’s imaginative maverick spirit and leading toward new economic opportunities for all citizens. It will help eliminate the digital divide, enabling us to promote literacy in all its forms. As we honor our treasured past, we also move forward. With diligence, integrity, and your support, we will make it possible.

Friends of the Library is a not for profit, all-volunteer group that sponsors events for raising funds, like the Library Fair, the Book Sale, and also supports programs of community interest, such as the Library Forum.

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