Relocation may be the best option for the Woodstock Library, said board president Jeff Collins during a discussion of environmental and structural reports on the current location ahead of a May 26 public hearing.
Examination by Kaaterskill Associates of Cairo found key supporting members and structural components cannot carry the 150 pounds per square foot required by libraries under current building code. The weight, which is much higher than other use types, is necessary because of the stationary weight of book stacks.
A report by Spectrum Environmental Services of Schenectady found significant mold issues in the crawl space where the heating system is located.
The library, which is made up of one main building and several additions, is primarily residential-type construction.
“I can’t speak for the entire board, I can speak for me. I feel like the idea of renovating the current building is very, very challenging,” Collins said.
“We have looked somewhat at the idea of moving to the Miller/Howard building, which is for sale. We have talked to the owners. They are willing to sell it to us.”
The 10 Dixon Avenue building is owned by Miller/Howard Investments and is of recent construction. It can be adapted to library use with minimal modification, Collins said. Architect Marty Nystrom, who is on the library facilities committee, has looked at the building and reported it was a good candidate.
“That building can be modified to support the entire program that we’ve always looked for,” Collins said.
“I can’t get too specific because I don’t have specific numbers, but it’s a cost that’s not outrageous,” Collins said. “And it may be the best solution.”
The prospect of moving leaves the question of what to do with the current building that is beloved by some who don’t want to see it torn down.
“One idea is to keep the lawn. The library will continue to own the lawn for perpetuity, so it stays on, stays green space, stays open space and does not get disrupted,’ Collins said.
“We would potentially put the building on the market to sell for a below-market price for those people who would like to take the building and modify it in a way that benefits Woodstock as a community,” he said.
Uses could include the historical society, affordable or workforce housing.
“And then to address the concern that people might have about the library not being in the hamlet and the accessibility of the library, we would look at the idea of putting a satellite office where the laundromat was or where people could do pick up and drop off of books,” Collins said.
Structural retrofit a monumental task
Under ideal circumstances, a building can be retrofit with additional structural members so it can withstand more weight. In the case of the library, there is no basement and the crawl space under the foundation is not uniform. In some spots it is less than two feet, making it difficult to slide in new beams or even to jack up the building.
“In order to lift steel or other pressure-treated members, any structural beams would need to be installed underneath the building structurally,” said JC Alten, who was hired as construction manager agent to oversee the construction of a new building. That project was placed on hold indefinitely when voters narrowly defeated a $5.8 million bond in November. Alten was retained to analyze the Kaaterskill report.
“So it’s not simply a question of putting a hole in the side of a wall and getting a beam in,” said Alten. “You have to do some significant excavation and digging, and we’re worried about the trees.”
The alternative is to jack up the building and slide in new beams, but the library is made up of several buildings and such an operation can quickly get very expensive.
“And the general outcome of that conversation was, ‘wow, this is not an easy undertaking if it’s even doable, and they could be expensive’, and that’s where that conversation stopped,” Alten said.
Building also plagued by mold, energy problems
Standing water in the crawl space has made it an ideal environment for mold growth and the only way to keep the mold from spreading to the rest of the library is to move the heating system into the building. That can incur a significant cost.
An energy audit found significant heat loss through leaks around single-pane windows and insufficient insulation.
“The comment from the energy team was that the building is so poor and so inadequate with inconsistent insulation, framing thickness, air gaps and single-pane glass that they were not able to go into the level of detail that they like to go into because the performance wasn’t even up to the basics required to do to do a basic energy analysis,” Alten said.
Building committee chair Howard Kagan explained the walls are too thin to handle adequate insulation. “The framing is old two-by-four, three-and-a-half inches thick. A current construction use is now two-by-six so you can get five-and-a-half inches of insulation and spray foam,” Kagan said.
“By adding a level of wall framing to make a somewhat thicker wall, insulating that entire wall, changing the windows to thermal windows, wrapping the entire exterior or the house wrap if you will, at best we would probably we’d be striving to simply make energy code for the building,” Alten said.
Better suited for other uses?
Trustee Caroline Jerome said it seems like a major preservation project.
“I’m asking the board, my fellow board members and the president and the director, are we preservationists? Or is our main task to provide a suitable safe library for our community?” Jerome asked.
“That’s an interesting question. What is our mission as a library,” Collins said.
Is it about preserving a building, beloved as it may be? Or is it about, you know, performing as a library,” he added. “And let me be clear on this. I’m not necessarily saying we need to destruct the building. I’m saying that the building may well be preserved as a function other than a library.”
Library officials will discuss the findings of structural and environmental reports during a Zoom videoconference on May 26 at 7 p.m. Participants must register to receive the meeting link at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYkc-qrrjwvHNISmS9vKcVKzTrmVoG29y3-.