The Woodstock Library is distributing a survey seeking input on which of six options for improvements the public will support and how much they are willing to pay for it.
Past surveys and countless community meetings have garnered a lot of input, but the library has decided that to be successful, it must reach beyond the same 60-100 people who show up at meetings.
“We wanted to make sure that the public has an opportunity to give their thoughts so the library board can be guided on how to move forward successfully,” Director Jessica Kerr said.
Options include building a new library for $5.8 million, building a large addition and renovating the existing library for $5.75 million, building a smaller addition and renovating for $3 million, a separate building on the north side with no renovation for $1.8 million, renovating with no addition for $1.2 million, or simply making repairs as needed with no bonding.
Respondents are also asked how much of a tax increase they’re willing to take, ranging from zero to $115 or more. Kerr noted the bonding figures on the survey do not take into account fundraising or state construction grants and are more for comparison among all the options.
Respondents can complete the survey online at woodstock.org/planning or pick up a hard copy at the library or the Town Clerk’s office. In addition, volunteers will canvass 25 percent of registered voters in each district, handing them a survey.
These multiple distribution methods run the risk of duplicate responses, but the library has planned for that by requiring respondents to give their name and address.
“In the past in seems like we haven’t been hearing enough from Woodstock, so this is Woodstock’s chance, once again to provide specific input,” Kerr said. “We made sure that the survey included choices for pretty much everybody.”
Past surveys through mass mailings garnered 300 responses at best, so the library hopes a more personal approach through volunteers will result in at least 1500 completed surveys.
The new survey was created in collaboration with Sam Magarelli and Gay Leonhardt, who say they discovered through discussions with Woodstockers that not enough people were being reached.
“We would really like to set a goal of October 14 for getting everybody’s responses. That would be the best in moving this process forward,” Kerr said. “We’re going to be out there until you get annoyed at seeing us. We want your information. We want your input.”
In addition to distribution online, through canvassing and in town, the survey will also get emailed to everyone on the library’s list for regular events and shared through social media.
“For many years the library was kind of seen as somehow apart from the town, and often not included when the town was talking about its planning or what was going on,” board President Dorothea Marcus said. “People thought the library board was isolated from the community, being a separate taxation district.”
Marcus is encouraged by the town’s posting news of the survey and a link on Woodstock’s Facebook page, signaling a spirit of cooperation.
“This isn’t starting over,” Kerr said. “It’s making sure that everybody sees a choice that they can choose. It’s really a three-question survey. One of the most important questions is how much would you be willing to support financially each year for your library to have a much better facility for you.”
Kerr said the library would like to expand its programming but is constrained by lack of space and the logistics of using other facilities.
“We want to start a coding program. We’re beginning on a maker space for youth. We want to have computer classes and technology assistance. We want to have programs that support job seekers using resources from Ulster County,” she said.
“Many of the times we want to have programs, we either have them here in our public space or elsewhere or after-hours and that’s not convenient for a lot of reasons.”
Magarelli and Leonhardt initially received a lukewarm response from the board, which was concerned about getting a consistent message across to patrons and taxpayers. Over several meetings, they reached a consensus over language and moved ahead with the final version.
“This is an unprecedented, remarkable approach that the new leadership of the library has taken. We have come to many meetings and the board members were asking, how can we hear from more people in the community,” Magarelli said.
“In response to that plea, the new leadership of the library, Jessica and Dorothea, we worked on this so that we could be respectful of all the wonderful work that’s been done and move forward with an approach that we hope will get 1200 to 1500 responses.”
Leonhardt said the key is to target every group possible to get out as many surveys.
“We’re printing out 2000 surveys and we are going to be very aggressively doing this, person by person by person, groups, any groups, whatever, the Zena barbecue next Saturday, etc,” she said.
It’s a survey, not a vote
“I try to make it very clear that this is a survey to inform the board,” Leonhardt said. “This is not a referendum. This is not a vote. This is a survey so the board can get the information they need. If you know what 2000 residents think about what they want, then you know what range you’re in.”
Armed with more responses, the board will have a better idea of what the community wants before it commits to spending massive amounts of money, Magarelli noted.
“If you’ve ever looked at what it takes to draw up the plans and the specifics that it takes for the architects and the engineers to really begin to price something out, that’s an expensive process,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to do that without really feeling confident that the community wanted you to do that. This is a great vehicle. It would be a cost saver for the community.”
Marcus said volunteers will be trained on how to deliver the survey without influencing the answers. Even if asked, the volunteers will not be allowed to disclose which choice they feel is the right one, she said.