The 88th Annual Woodstock Library Fair was not without its drama this year when a group opposed to a planned new building displayed their own alternatives and criticisms.
The display, titled “No Teardown — Upgrade our Library — Scale it Right,” was on Library Lane, directly across the street from the entrance to the library and the bulk of the fair attractions. It was put together by new library building critic and former trustee John Ludwig, Bob Lavaggi, Curry Rinzler, Gay Leonhardt and Bob Young.
It featured alternative drawings from architect Rinzler, a map of trees Ludwig’s group says is at risk of root damage with the planned construction and a 1/6 scale skeleton model of the current main building.
Woodstock Hardware owner Vince Christofora owns the strip of land across Library Lane from the corner of Tinker Street to the former Library Laundromat parcel. He annually gives permission for the Friends of the Library to use his land. This year, they didn’t need to use it, so Christofora allowed Ludwig’s group to use it on the condition no fence or barrier was erected.
The group set up its display the morning of the fair on July 27. Shortly after, a dispute unfolded. “We were here at 7 and we set up. At 8:30, they put this fence up. You can tell they had it all planned out, the buckets, the stones, the fencing, and they knew what they were doing,” Ludwig said. “We got the police chief involved. He got (Town Supervisor) Bill McKenna involved. They worked out a compromise that we would open the fence here,” he said standing by an opening made in the fence so people could walk up to the display and talk to the group.
Woodstock Police Officer Gabriella Lalima cut the opening as McKenna and Police Chief Clayton Keefe observed. McKenna confirmed his role there was as a mediator.
He noted that although Library Lane is closed for the fair, nothing should be placed on or alongside the road in case emergency vehicles need access. He said Ludwig’s group has the right to exercise their freedom of speech, though the town will likely rethink how Library Lane is handled during the closure for the fair.
Friends of the Library President Michael Hunt said Ludwig’s group was not part of the fair and the fence was to make that delineation. “As for the display across Library Lane, let›s lay down the facts. Vendors fill out our application and a pay a fee to be part of the fair,” Hunt said. “Neither Curry nor John did this. Instead a deal was struck with Vince to use his parking spaces opposite Library lawn.”
Hunt went on to say the Friends borrow property from both Lasher Funeral Home and Woodstock Hardware and are very appreciative for the support. He said the Friends, upon learning of Ludwig’s plans, made daily trips to Woodstock Hardware to work out a resolution, but Christofora was unavailable.
“We had no choice but to make sure the public knew what was in the Library Fair and what was clearly not,” Hunt said. “I ask anyone reading this, if you were producing a long time tradition, following the guidelines set up long before you came around, and a hostile group came in uninvited and tried to crash the event you have given the last eight months of your life planning and promoting as an unpaid volunteer, would you let them? We didn’t let them.”
Hunt asked if they should expect anything different from the same person who tried and failed to “dissolve and terminate” the library last year. “We don’t dispute their right to be part of the conversation but they must join the current conversation, and in an appropriate manner, not piggybacking on the hard work of 80 volunteers.”
Trustee election in October
In addition to the budget vote on this year’s zero tax levy increase, voters will elect three trustees. Petitions must be submitted by September 3 and are available at woodstock.org or the library circulation desk.