By Lindsay Carey
The Southington Library was recently granted permission by the Town Council to apply for a grant that could help fund an expansion project at the library.
Though the expansion is not set to begin until 2017, Library Director Susan Smayda described moving the grant application forward as an important first step.
The $13 million renovation project will double the size of the library as it currently stands. The library is applying for $1 million from the state to fund the project.
The grant must be completed by the last week of August.
“I still have a little bit of finishing touches,” said Smayda. “A grant like this was a huge project to work on and it’s nice to have that work validated by the town council.”
Upon sitting down with Smayda and learning more about the project, Town Councilor Dawn Miceli commended the library director for her knowledge about the industry and the time she has put into writing the grant.
“I learned something about this project and about the diligence that Sue has done with this with regard to the size of the project,” said Miceli, at the Town Council meeting.
Smayda worked with Tai Soo Kim Partners, and specifically with lead architect Ryszard Szczytek to develop a feasibility study, layout of the building, and concepts drawings for the renovation.
Smayda said that the renovation will help the library more efficiently carry out their mission in ways that it can’t right now, because of space limitations. More space and new technology are including in the plans for the expansion.
One of the benefits of the renovation will make the library compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“The fact that people with mobility complications have a hard time getting around the library is unfortunate,” said Smayda. “I despise not being ADA compliant. This is a huge goal for us.”
The stacks at the library in their current state are too narrow for wheelchairs. Although, the staff is always willing to help, Smayda said it’s important that the library is accessible for everyone to be able to help themselves.
The Southington Public Library is also limited to the amount of programs that can be run there, because there is only one meeting room.
In the plans for the renovation project, the new library will have a larger meeting room in addition to a smaller meeting room so that two programs can go on at the same time.
“Our program room is very rarely open to the community groups,” said Smayda, who hopes that the expansion will allow more opportunities for community groups to meet there.
The children’s room will also receive more space, because it also gets overcrowded when there are programs. Smayda says often times parents end up sitting on the floor while they are waiting for their children to finish with a program.
Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio expressed his support for the library’s expansion, because he feels it is greatly needed.
“When I came on the council this year, one of the first things I did was take a tour of the library,” said Riccio. “It was really eye opening. It’s one of the facilities in town that hasn’t had much attention since it was constructed.”
Riccio also addressed the misconception that people don’t really use libraries anymore, because of technology.
“I don’t think our library’s ever had as much use as it does now,” said Riccio. “As technology changes the use of the library changes with it and new functions are taken on through the library.”
With the Town Council’s support, the state grant application will move forward.
Smayda said she will find out in November how much funding the library will receive.
“It’s a competitive grant with a small pot of money and a lot of libraries looking for money,” said Smayda.
By Lindsay Carey