By SHERIDAN ROY
After unanimous approval by members of the library planning committee and the library board of directors, the board brought forth a recommendation to the town council of QA+M Architecture out of Farmington to perform the renovations to the library.
The town manager’s budget included a line item of $35,000 for the library to hire an architectural firm for the work. QA+M came within that amount.
The planning committee is chaired by Joanne Kelleher, a member of both the library board and the library advocacy committee. She explained that four architectural firms were looked at by the committee. All were given tours of the current library, and were asked to give a presentation and provide cost estimates for the building.
All four firms were evaluated by the committee over two days.
“At the end of the second night, all the attendees discussed the firms and basically had a strong pull where we agreed on QA+M,” said Kelleher. “We then came out of executive session, and voted unanimously for that selection.”
Erica Byrne, a member of the planning committee who works in strategic planning and consulting for libraries across the state, said QA+M had “the most comprehensive and responsive presentation.”
“They demonstrated to us the ways in which they will be able to work collaboratively with the planning committee, advocacy committee, library board, staff, and the town as a whole,” said Byrne. “They spoke clearly about how they plan to address the needs of the town and had significant respect for the town and for its resources that we would be putting into a new library.”
Byrne mentioned several key factors that led to the committee’s decision. QA+M discussed the importance of design in harmony with the library’s neighbors, the historical society and Derynoski Elementary School, as well as site design from vehicular and pedestrian perspectives. They also provided examples of how they would work with the existing building rather than building a new building if it came down to it.
According to Byrne, QA+M made things “easy to understand,” and offered a month-by-month layout of what they would be doing. QA+M is the sixth largest architectural firm in greater Hartford, and have managed multiple municipal and school projects that reflect similar design principles as to what the planning committee was looking for.
“The way that they had some project specific elements really spoke to us,” said Byrne. “They were best able to answer questions about past library design trends that have not aged well, and were able to anticipate the design and space usage elements that had been brought up by staff.”
The town council will add the vote to the September meeting’s agenda. Chris Palmieri (D) and John Barry (D) pointed out that QA+M’s website had an extensive list of projects they have worked on, but no work on libraries was listed. Barry said the Connecticut State Library also keeps a list of architectural companies that work on libraries, and QA+M was not on the list.
“I thought that was a bit unusual and it makes me wonder how they made it as a finalist in the interview process,” said Barry. He said he looks forward to reviewing and learning more about the company before the September council meeting.
Library officials said the company had done extensive work on municipal and educational buildings along with redesigning existing space, and that was an incentive for their decision.
The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 9, at which the council will further discuss and vote on the recommendation.