The Woodstock Library board recently voted to keep on schedule and have the bond vote for a new library on November 3, 2020, the same day as the general election for president. We are well aware of the risks of having the bond vote in the year of the pandemic. No one can predict what our lives will be like in November. But the risks of delaying the vote seemed greater.
We feel compassion for those suffering economically, not to mention physically, from the vast disruption. We live and work here too. Only homeowners pay property tax, not renters, and the library tax is the smallest slice of the pie. Second homeowners comprise 60 percent of Woodstock taxpayers and account for 70 percent of town tax revenue (since their homes are mostly of higher assessments), so those who live here year-round are going to get a beautiful functional 21st-century library for not that much financial investment. We feel the amount of tax increase will not be significant, and we are proposing a zero-increase tax levy in our operational budget for the second year in a row.
The fact is that the current library building is totally unsuited for the new normal. Small, cramped spaces do not allow for social distancing. There are two to three staff who sit inside a tiny office behind the circulation desk. They can no longer occupy that space at the same time.
The public computers which are a lifeline for so many residents are not safely spaced. The air quality is already poor quality. There is only one bathroom. And of course, our second floor is not accessible for those who can’t manage stairs.
The new library will have open flexible spaces, advanced air filtration systems and our architect is already revising plans to make sure areas like public computers are configured to allow for current and likely future social distancing needs. Our planning committee is also revising our plan of service to make sure our future offerings are in sync with the changing needs of the population.
Many years of planning and much financial investment from private donors has brought us so close. Everyone has battle fatigue from the library wars, and both sides feel a public vote would settle the matter once and for all. When the bond passes, it will allow us to fundraise much more successfully — there are generous donors who are waiting to make sure this is really happening, that the new library will actually be built, before committing. We can pay down the bond much quicker and borrow less once this happens.
The longer we wait, the more it will cost. If we end up in a recession or depression, costs may be lower, and the economic stimulus of a major construction project in town will provide jobs and an infusion of money into the town. Interest rates are at an all time low, so this is an ideal time to borrow for the greater public good.
Governor Cuomo has asked us to reimagine. The new library will be the catalyst for our communal reimagining of life in Woodstock. People out of work or students who can’t afford college will need us more than ever. The new library will be a source of inspiration, pride and support.
President, Woodstock Library