WALLINGFORD — Last winter, staff at the Wallingford Public Library gathered for a brainstorming session to figure out “the next big thing” for the library, said Jane Fisher, the library’s director.
The objective was to “think about what the community needs and what space lends itself to that without taking away from what we provide,” Fisher said.
That brainstorming session led to a proposal to turn part of the library’s main floor into a 2,400-square-foot public event space. Fisher said the estimated project cost is $400,000. The library is applying for a $200,000 grant from the Connecticut State Library, she said. The remainder of the project will be funded through the library’s contingency fund. If the grant isn’t available, the library would reconsider the project, Fisher said, adding that she won’t know until November.
The plan is to provide a multi-purpose room enclosed by soundproof glass that can be used as a space for creation, learning, presentation, workshops and other events, Fisher said. She envisions the space being called “The Collaboratory at Wallingford Public Library.”
It would be open to the public throughout the day. Other meeting rooms at the library on the lower level are locked when not in use because staff cannot monitor them, Fisher said. But since this area would be in a more visible section of the library, its use would not be regulated.
Plans call for the space to be built where part of the “new books and media” section is now on the main floor, against windows facing the rear parking lot. The area has a high arching roof held up by two large brick pillars. Fisher said the area would include elements of a “makerspace,” such as three-dimensional printing and other technology. A “makerspace” is something libraries across the country have adopted to allow for innovation in technology. But what Wallingford is proposing “is more than that,” Fisher said, and would include space for events, seminars and traveling displays.
The “big, bold dramatic area” was originally designed to be a public lounge space, Fisher said, but before library renovations were completed in 2008 it was decided the space was needed to store a large collection of print reference books. Audio books, music and movies are also found in the area where the library hopes to create the event space. If the project moves ahead, books and media in the section will be redistributed throughout the library, Fisher said.
“We will continue to offer everything we offer now,” she said.
Construction likely wouldn’t close the library, Fisher added. Temporary walls would be erected to perform work “with minimum disruption,” she said.
Town Councilors met with library officials last Tuesday to discuss the project. Fisher said she wanted to make sure the council would be excited about the project before proceeding. While the project wouldn’t directly impact taxpayers, the last thing she wants, Fisher said, is to go forward with a plan the Town Council doesn’t support. During the meeting, Town Councilor Craig Fishbein suggested the council approve a resolution in support of the library’s grant application. The council will likely vote on the resolution during its first meeting in August, Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Cervoni said. “It’s a nice contribution to the community.”
The library continues to improve, and the space would be a “great way in a modern age to take advantage of modern technology,” he said. “Even if you consider something a jewel, you still have to polish it on occasion.”