The five options for Woodstock Library’s upgrade

The architecture and planning firm ADG Cohn gave Woodstock library patrons and trustees more in-depth descriptions of five options for expansion and renovation of the library, which most agree is lacking in recent surveys. The firm was hired to update the library’s Master Plan, a document that will be used as a guide to make decisions about space needs.

The options, ranging from $1.75 million to $5.75 million, are the culmination of several meetings with trustees and 14 visual scans in which patrons were asked to view each section of the library and property and give it a grade of A through D.

Most liked the charming front entrance despite lack of ADA accessibility, giving it an “A.” However, that dropped to a “D” as soon as people walked inside, with many commenting about the cluttered and cramped atmosphere.


Library Planner Alex Cohen noted he usually moderates two or three scans, but the board felt more input was needed. In all 14 visual scans were done, most of them run by trustees.

“This is the first time I had the board do more work than we did,” he said.

Cohen, in an attempt to allay fears some outside firm would come in and be out of touch with the town, said “You’ve said we are a community library and we don’t want somebody to come in and build some big obelisk.”

Even in the least-involved option, Cohen advocated replacing or at least remodeling the book barn, a major source of fundraising revenue for the Friends of the Library, which augments the library’s budget. Now the space is what architects and planners call unconditioned, meaning it is neither insulated nor climate-controlled, allowing large swings in humidity and temperature, which is bad for books. Critters can also enter the barn. “If you’re not respecting the materials with conditioned space, you’re wasting your time,” Cohen said.

Cohen has proposed a storage idea he calls a book castle to maximize available space. Used primarily in larger institutions and hospitals, it is an automated system where books are stacked very tightly and brought down to the librarian on automated trays.

Books can be sorted by subject, allowing for some serendipity. For example, if a patron requests a book on Julius Caesar, down would come a tray with all the books on the subject, Cohen said.

The book castle costs $100,000 to $200,000, plus about $100,000 over 20 years for maintenance, he said.


A low-end library

The ideal standard is about two square feet per capita, Cohen said. The library now has 7,078 gross square feet, but the 1,780-square-foot book barn is neither ADA accessible nor year-round space and the 725 square feet upstairs is not ADA accessible. Thus, the fully usable space is 4,573 square feet. The usable space is far below the standard space for the library population, he said.

A common complaint is the lack of seating in the library, which has a capacity of 91. With an ideal expansion including a book castle, that can increase to 198, he said. With compact shelving in lieu of a book castle, an expansion can fit 178 seats. Traditional shelving brings the number down to 129.

As Cohen explained, compact shelves are units that move out like an accordion, usually when someone turns a crank. The shelves then move back against each other when not being browsed. The system is in use in universities and research libraries.

“You’re at a low-end library for a great community,” Cohen said.


Option 1

In what Architect Harvey Cohn referred to as the “baseline,” remodeling would bring the building up to code and address the major inadequacies and problems, including frequent water in the basement, by moving mechanical and electrical systems and making it ADA compliant.

Renovating the existing space would cost $900,000, he estimates. Add another $280,000 for an elevator tower to make the second story accessible and another $570,000 for the book barn and  it totals $1.75 million. However, the library would actually lose space for programming and materials. “The shelving would have to change to provide 3-foot aisles,” Cohn said.

He estimates downtime to be around a year during the renovation. The average cost to property owners is $47, or $56 when only taking residential parcels into account. That is assuming a 10-year bond.


Option 2

A 6,350-square-foot addition to the north side, combined with the existing 6,110 square feet, would provide 12,460 square feet. The addition would cost $3.25 million and another $850,000 for the renovation, or a total of $4.1 million. Downtime would be about 9 months, since operations could remain in the existing building, then temporarily move to the addition once it is finished. Average annual cost to all property owners is $66, or $77 for only residential parcels, assuming a 20-year bond.

The advantage to this option is it keeps the front area and facade and front lawn.

However, it only meets 83 percent of the ideal space needs and the new addition looms over the existing building.


Option 2a

An option added after the November meeting with the board, this one provides for a larger area of new construction. A 12,230-square foot addition would be built and only 2,770 square feet of the existing space would remain. The new space would cost $5.4 million and renovating what remains of the existing space would cost $350,000, for a total of $5.75 million.

The advantage to the new option is it would provide 15,000 square feet, 100 percent of what is considered ideal. It maintains the front lawn and facade. However it would result in 18 months downtime.

The annual cost to property owners is $69, or $81 for only the residential parcels, assuming a 30-year bond.


Option 3

This would add a 10,000-square-foot building along Tinker Street with a courtyard in the middle and an art walk or other corridor connecting it to the existing library. Combined with 5,210 square feet from the original library, this provides all of the “ideal” space.


The book barn was not included in the totals.

The Tinker Street building would cost $3.6 million and another $900,000 for the renovation, totaling $4.5 million.

The advantage is minimal downtime since the library could remain open during construction, then move into the new building for the renovation. The disadvantage is half the lawn would be lost.

The annual cost to property owners is $54, or $63 for only the residential parcels, assuming a 30-year bond.


Option 4

This plan demolishes the library completely and replaces it with an entirely new 15,000-square-foot building. The estimated cost is $5.75 million. Advantages include 100 percent of ideal space and modern efficiency that could take advantage of solar energy. The disadvantage is the library would be displaced for up to two years.

The cost to the average property owner is $69, or $81 for only the residential parcels, assuming a 30-year bond.

Responding to concerns about historical significance of the library structure, Building Committee Chair Jill Fisher noted very little remains of the original building, which was formerly a doctor’s office.


Send in questions

Cohen and Cohn answered some questions submitted on index cards and some asked verbally. The board promised to save submissions and have them answered on the library’s website at, where a copy of ADG Cohn’s PowerPoint presentation is also available. Questions can also be submitted to special email address,

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