Officials heard some harsh words to describe certain conditions at the functional, but crowded Woodstock Library, but nothing really came as a shock as a group of volunteers made up of everyday users provided feedback by way of a visual scan of the Library Lane facility.
Many people drew the same conclusions as groups that assembled during the last Master Plan update and responses were similar to a survey distributed last Fall.
Trustee and Building Committee Chair Jill Fisher engaged library users with the idea to use the feedback from to report back to architects who are working on an update to the library’s Master Plan. That feedback will be incorporated into Master Plan firm ADG Cohn’s recommendations and is considered favorable to having outside consultants simply telling trustees what they think should happen, Fisher said.
The findings from all the visual scans will be presented at an informational meeting, 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, September 10 at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, where the firm will provide an update on the progress.
Giving a grade of A through F at each stop along the way, the group of four library users and three trustees started out on a recent Wednesday afternoon with the front walk and entryway.
“So welcoming. So Woodstock,” was one comment. But many agreed the front door is far too narrow for people using walkers or wheelchairs, something that was pointed out as the library attempted a renovation in 2007. The consensus was a B-plus. Some said it would have been an “A” had it not been for the narrow door.
The next stop was the front lawn, which includes an area affectionately and sometimes frustratingly called Library Lake. It got it name because the slight bowl shape fills with water from torrential rains and the overflow of the Tannery Brook, which runs behind the library. Several said the lawn adds to the library’s charm and provides open space when the center of town can get crowded.
The group gave it an “A-minus.”
Cluttered but functional
The group moved on to the front of the library, an area that lacks clear partitions, but houses many functions including the circulation and information desk, the public computers, bulletin boards and most recently the addition of a periodicals rack.
“Cluttered” was a common word. While one person said she was not bothered by it and found it inviting, she soon became overwhelmed.
“I don’t come here as often because of all the clutter,” said another, who prefers the West Hurley library which is smaller, but feels less cramped.
One volunteer was particularly bothered by the fluorescent lighting. The type of lights can be impersonal and institutional and in some cases, the spectrum of light cast can be distracting or even harmful. The group gave this area a “D.”
Onward to the director’s office, the volunteers went. This room, as it turns out, serves many functions. Aside from being an office for Director Janet Dymond, it is also a classroom and meeting room. This means when a group has no other place to meet, Dymond graciously packs up her laptop and finds a quiet corner elsewhere to continue her work. All agreed groups should not have to evict the director to hold a meeting or writing class. This group gave the space a “B+” but the current multipurpose setup a “D.”
Then it was off as quietly as possible to stacks and the reading room in the back of the library. Trustee Selma Kaplan apologized in advance to the readers that the group was doing a quick assessment of the room and a brief discussion and would be out as quickly as possible. It’s for the benefit of the library and its users, she quickly explained. But not all were happy with the minor disturbance.
“You people are too noisy,” said one man, who stormed off in a huff, which, it was felt, pointed out the need for more conference and meeting rooms so that people can read quietly.
Some said the lights, similar to the front area, are too bothersome for a healthy reading experience. Some suggested massively culling the stacks and only having the most popular books available would clear a lot of space. Older books could be in stacks in another building and browsable online. Library staff would make those available on request. But others resisted, saying there’s no substitute for holding a book in your hand.
The reading room earned a “B” for the space, but a “C” for aesthetics.
Teens need more space
The recently revamped Children’s Room got mixed reactions, with some approving a creative use of the space, while others called it ugly. A makeshift teen lounge was carved out of the corner of the room with bookshelves and plexiglass serving as a partition. The Friends of the Library did the makeover, fully aware that it isn’t permanent, but a way to make the space more desirable while the trustees work on plans for the library’s future.
Small as it may be, at least they have a couch, said one person in the group when looking at the teen corner. It gives them a bit of separation from the toddlers and small children in the other part of the room. The group gave this room a “C.”
And finally, the art room. Some in the group said they never knew the library had an art room. Others said the room’s setup was a bit odd, with a divider being used to provide a bit of privacy for the staff, which was one room away.
It’s also the room where Librarian Jessica Kerr gives one-on-one help with people’s gadgets during Tech Thursdays. Some thought it was a good use of the room, while others thought Tech Thursdays could be held in a dedicated classroom if one were available.
Grades for this room ranged from “A” to “C.”
“There has been a very strong consensus things need to be done here,” Fisher said. “People like the building, but they would like to see it improved. What’s been interesting to me is it’s been pretty consistent.”
The library will host more visual scans, but participants will be chosen at random from voters in the Woodstock Library District to get a wider sample.
Library Planner Alex Cohen and Architect Harvey Cohn will present their findings during a public meeting September 10 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center and will seek further input from those in attendance.