Forging ahead with plans to build a new structure, Woodstock Library trustees, at their February 15 meeting, formed a Build a Better Library Committee and drafted a preliminary timeline for the next steps. Chair and board President Dorothea Marcus said no dates are set yet because “we want to be careful and very strategic.”
The four-phase timetable will begin with development of an architectural program to include input from staff, patrons and stakeholders to help prioritize which programs and services will be in the new building. Volunteers will facilitate the progress, which is intended to provide detailed information to architects. A campaign will raise money for the schematic design phase so it does not come from taxpayer money. Trustee David Lewis will involve his Environmental Science class in research and development of ideas for a green building.
The second phase will involve selection of an architect, the third phase will include schematic drawings and a fourth phase will seek to initiate a major capital campaign.
A more detailed plan with specific dates will be presented at the March 29 library board meeting, Marcus said. “This is all going to be happening at a deliberate speed, but we’re not going to be rushing things,” she said to mostly empty rows of chairs set in expectation of a larger audience, given past vocal opposition.
At its February 15 meeting, the board debated exactly how it will select an architect.
ADG Cohn provided the Master Plan update, which included recommendations for the future facility, but the architect, whether it be ADG Cohn or someone else, must be chosen through a competitive process.
The traditional method is a request for sealed proposals. In such a process, all architects who submitted proposals for the Master Facilities Plan update will be invited, in addition to local and regional firms. A design competition may offer more public participation, but may be fraught with pitfalls, such as the need for some professional to oversee the process. Once a winning concept is chosen, a licensed architect would still need to provide a design.
“I am wondering if it isn’t opening up problems,” Trustee Caroline Jerome said of a competition. “I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver.”
Trustee Selma Kaplan said it sounds like it could be fun, but ultimately what’s needed is someone who knows how to build a library.
Building Committee Chair Jill Fisher said a design competition could be managed, especially if it is limited to concepts, and not designs, for the exterior, the part of the building that has raised the most concern.
A competition could have a $10,000 prize and be juried by outsiders, she suggested. “We want to assure people we’re not going to foist some horrible vision on them,” Fisher said.
“Too many cooks in the kitchen muddle the food,” cautioned Vice President Barry Miller. The failed annex plan for the former Library Laundromat property across Library Lane had its humble beginnings as a small $500,000 pre-fabricated building, he noted.
“It ended up as a $1.5 million building that wasn’t designed for this area.”
With all the disadvantages, a design competition is all but off the table.
While 70 percent of respondents to a recent survey stated they favored options other than a new building, the board cited a lack of clarity in different choices that ranged from just a renovation of the existing building to complete demolition and replacement. They noted a renovation plus addition involves too many unknowns about the current building and contend razing the library, save for a historical section is the most cost-effective solution.