The response was largely positive to the Woodstock Library’s Zoom presentation on a planned move to Bearsville, with about 70 people attending over two sessions, January 12 and 13.
“The reason that we’re looking to move is that the current library is not ADA compliant, and it’s almost impossible if not impossible to make it ADA compliant,” library board President Jeff Collins said. “It’s poorly insulated. We had tried to do a vacuum test to check out the how the insulation was working, and it was so poor they couldn’t even do that.”
He also noted the HVAC system is inefficient and old and the building is cooled in the summer with window air conditioners. There are also air quality issues. “Everyone knows there’s mold issues. I know some people that can’t go into the library because of the mold, because it affects them and affects their health.”
The current building cannot be retrofitted to solve these problems, he said. “Last year, we did a study of the structural support to the library and really discovered that no aspect, no part of the library supports the 150 pounds per square foot that’s required of a library building,” Collins said. “And there’s really no way to change that or to fix that without essentially taking the building up, changing all the underlying structure and putting it back down on its footings.”
The roof is also badly designed and creates ponds and puddles in the middle due to all the different structures that were added over time, he said. The 15 parking spaces on Library Lane pose a safety hazard, he said, because patrons have to back out onto the street.
The plan is to move to 10 Dixon Avenue, the former headquarters of Miller/Howard investments. The library will ask voters permission to borrow about $3.95 million, which includes the purchase price of $2.596 million, $1.3 million in improvements, moving and other expenses. The date of the bond vote has not been set.
Without making any changes to the new location, it provides 44 off-street parking spaces and a modern, efficient HVAC system, Collins noted. It also has a solar array on the roof.
“There’s an on-site generator, which allows us to use the building as a disaster location if the power is down in other parts of town,” he said, noting that capability may give the library access to grant funding. The building also has a fiber-optic internet connection that will be very useful for people who want to get work done but don’t have good connections.
“I know a number of people that have to drive to the library to get internet. This will be a much better connection for them,” he said.
The Dixon Avenue building has almost 12,000 square feet of interior space, nearly triple the current building, which only has about 4500 square feet of usable space.
More space for programs
“I want to touch on the services the library offers because as we know, yes, the library is a physical place that we go to, to get books, to get materials. But I think it’s really important to keep in mind that the library is also the whole slew of services that we offer and the staff that supports that, the volunteers that support that, so the library is quite a bit more than just its physical building,” Director Ivy Gocker said. “The very first goal in the plan of service is addressing the need for the library to be a community hub, and the plan of service elaborates on this to say the library must create collaborative spaces that foster interactions without disturbing other library functions,” she said. “Anybody who’s been in the current library can probably understand how we’re not quite meeting that need because there aren’t really any doors in the library that close off spaces. There isn’t a very good meeting space.”
She also noted special collections on local history and art are scattered throughout the building and there are no safeguards to protect them. Since rooms cannot be sectioned off, after-hours meetings have access to the whole building.
The Dixon Avenue building would allow for meeting and collaboration spaces, featuring small rooms where someone can work alone or where people can have a meeting or workshop. “And these things can be happening even as regular day-to-day operations are going on in the library,” Gocker said.
The new building would also have dedicated spaces for teens and children. “As you might know now the children and teens are kind of crammed together into one back corner of the library,” she said. “But in the plans for the new building, they each get their own room so that they can have their own library experience that’s tailored to them and their needs.”
A dedicated space will house archives and historical resources with secured entry and climate control, she also noted.
Structural work needed
Work is required to shore up the building’s structural supports so it is capable of supporting 150 pounds per square foot as required by code.
“We need to improve the structural support of the second floor to accommodate a library. It was built as an office building, which has a much different load level requirement than a library has,” Collins said. “Libraries have heavy books. That’s why the requirement’s so much heavier for a library.”
Addition to come later
One of the options was to build an addition to the Dixon Avenue building at the same time it was renovated, but those plans will wait until funds can be raised privately.
“We feel that it makes more sense to ask the town to pass a bond that allows us to purchase and repurpose the existing building, and to look for funds later, once we’re in the building, to ask for private donations to expand the building, if we choose to expand the building in the future,” Collins said.
Addressing access issues
Many people walk to the library, and Collins said it is important to give them ways to still access materials and services. “I have worked with (Ulster County Legislature Majority Leader) Jonathan Heppner to approach UCAT to see if we can expand the bus service to Bearsville and include the library as a drop-off spot,” Collins said. “We are also looking at the idea of putting an unstaffed kiosk on the existing library site, either on the lawn or in the building for awhile.”
A patron could go online, reserve a book and it would be left for them in a locker that could be unlocked with their library card.
“It’s a wonderful outcome that this may be a better result, and probably less expensive than any of the things that were considered in the last few years. I really think it’s wonderful,” Judith Kerman said.
Others asked questions about the configuration of meeting spaces and the number of available public computers. Gocker and Collins responded that the configuration is not set in stone and that shelving and furniture can be moved to allow for bigger events. There will also be laptop computers that patrons can reserve for use in the library and brought to a quiet space.
Library lawn to be preserved
The library board will also form a committee to provide advice on how to best use the funds from the future sale of the current building. Collins also said the lawn will be saved. “Our intention is to keep it forever green. We will retain ownership of the lawn forever and keep it forever green,” Collins said. “If it turns out in the future, that it makes more sense for that to be owned by, say, the Woodstock Land Trust or town of Woodstock, we’ll transfer ownership, but we’re basically going to put a deed on, that it not be changed from a lawn.”