Community members had a chance to view preliminary renovation plans for the Southington Public Library on Thursday, Jan. 23 during two public presentations from library officials and Tappé Architects.
The state of Southington’s library, at 255 Main St., has been a subject of public discussion almost from the start. It was built in 1974, at the start of Southington’s population boom in the 1970s, but hasn’t had any major upgrades since it was first constructed.
According to studies of the facility, the current building doesn’t meet fire codes, and is not ADA (American Disability Act) compliant. With space concerns, modernization issues, and an older building that is requiring more and more maintenance, a move is underway to renovate the current building to meet the town’s needs.
“Libraries are for people, and we are running out of space for people,” said library director Kristi Sadowski. She said since the library first opened, the population in the town of Southington has grown by 30%.
Tappé Architects was hired in September 2019 and got straight to work conducting surveys and analyzing responses to come up with renovation plans that will provide residents with a library based on the town’s unique needs and interests. Tappé Architects has worked on over 90 library projects—some have won awards from the American Library Association and American Institute of Architects.
Jeff Hoover of Tappé Architects offered residents a look at two potential renovation plans: one which would expand the current library and renovate the existing portion, and one which would be a completely new library on the site of the current building followed by demolition of the existing building.
Both options offer many of the same features when it comes to the building’s interior: a large community meeting room for up to 150 people, a quiet reading space, acoustic separation between departments, a seniors’ spot, group study and tutoring spaces, an expanded collection, a conference room, an internet café, a more prominent Friend’s Bookstore, expanded space for children and an enhanced space for teens. Both options feature high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, adequate accommodations for staff and improved service points.
“One of our goals is to make the library have a presence and be a civic point of the community,” said Hoover.
The cost for each of the two options is unknown at this time. While the final product in each option will offer nearly identical services, the pathways to completion look very different.
The first option proposes expanding and renovating the existing building. Hoover said that construction would take longer, and the library would remain open during construction of the expanded portion. Once the expansion is built and complete, all of the departments would shift over to the completed portion, and construction crews would renovate the remainder of the library. The basement would no longer be used for programs—it would become staff space.
Since there is already a starting point—a built building full of parts—that could potentially save some money off of the total project cost. However, many of the building’s utilities need to be completely renewed, and that could be pricey.
According to Hoover, the second option would be to build a new library across the parking lot. Services would continue as usual at the current library, while construction takes place across the lot. Once complete, everything would be moved over to the new building, and the current building would be demolished. Although both options offer nearly identical space and services, option two does not include a basement.
Both options offer the same amount of parking. They are both approximately 12,000 square feet.
Usage of the Southington Public Library grows each and every day, as does the library’s collection. On average, eight new library cards are issued each day. A total of 8,521 new items were added to the library’s collection in fiscal year 2018-19, and there were 202,680 visits to the library.
From 1975 to 2018, the number of items borrowed increased by 168%. The collection size increased 109%, and program attendance increased 479%. Collection space and program space has been completely outgrown.
The preliminary plans are just that—preliminary. Community feedback will continue to be collected as plans progress. To learn more about the project, visit www.southingtonlibrary.org/future-plans.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.
For more information about the project: Library Expansion study meeting
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