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Building committee reconsiders Southington library features, furniture

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SOUTHINGTON — Library building committee members once again reopened consideration of an alternative sliding door feature on the community room in designs for a new library after receiving altered plans from the architect this past week.

They were disappointed with how the building would appear with two standard doors instead, and had asked that architects find a cost-effective alternative to the original plan before the next meeting.

Building committe members were also presented with furniture options for the new library after library staff met with Town Manager Mark Sciota, a member of the committee and acting library director, determining only office furniture and some additional pieces could be brought from the existing building to the new building. The remaining furniture is too worn or outdated to find use in the modern library the town looks to build.

Architects also took time to address persistent public concerns regarding the size of the library, after rising cost estimates forced a reduction in the planned space from 30,000 to 24,000 square feet. Though a new 24,0000 building would be just 3,000 square feet bigger than the current library, the difference they say is how the space is used.

The current building has 4,000 square feet of mostly unusable space and inadequate space in the basement, and the 4,736 square-foot upper floor is open to the main library floor with study areas divided by simple partitions that allow for noise to spread throughout the whole building. The new plan, architects say, is designed to maximize usable public and programming areas, greatly expanding the usable space while giving patrons plenty of quiet areas to study and work.

The additional space of the original 30,000 square-foot plan, while nice, wouldn’t make a drastic difference in their current plans, committee members said. They also said, however, that the building could always be expanded in the future with an additional wing, should the need arise.

“So we already said that we don’t want to go into the basement. That’s 4,000, take that off. You really don’t do much in the book stacks over here. So for functionality purposes, you have [the central community area], you have a little bit upstairs, and that’s it,” Committee Chair Jim Morelli said, “These architects are experienced at developing functional flow libraries of the future. So it’s all about adaptability and convertibility. I don’t think you could compare this building at 20,000 feet to the new building at 24.”

Many of the furniture choices being considered had adaptability in mind: comfortable chairs that are easy to stack, and flip-top tables which are able to be easily moved out of the way to make space for the library’s programming needs.

Community room

The community room is where the board members are looking to make the most of this philosophy, being able to open up the whole space to accommodate a couple hundred people.

Members of the committee were not pleased, however, with the look of the revised layout of doors meant to connect the community room to the exterior hardtop patio. The revised plans call for two glass push-doors on either side of the building separated by several tall windows.

“I’m not a big fan of this. This looks like it’s just two more entrances,” Sciota said, “I think that the purpose when we talked about scratching that big price item, we said we’d like to keep the outdoor/indoor space for programs during nice weather. But how do we do it for a lot less than opening up the whole wall? So that’s what we’re hoping to look for. That’s not what I see.”

The committee sent the designers back to develop ideas for a series of folding doors, which designers said may run over the cost of the basic wall, but would still be less expensive than the original plan for the fully-opening wall. The aim for building committee members is to find a satisfying compromise between the original design and the tighter budget they’re working with.

Other items were discussed at the meeting, such as further sloping the roof of the community room to reduce concerns over leakage over time, which members of the board said gave the building a more striking profile. It remains unclear whether it will become a part of the final design.

While there have yet to be any definitive choices made on the furniture in the building, sturdy lounge chairs with flip-top stands for laptops are being considered as a staple of the study areas alongside small colorful mats for children to sit on in the programming space.

One of the larger upstairs study rooms is also being converted into a history center, with glass display cabinets and bookshelves to house Southington’s historical documents.

Site allows expansion

While below the initial expectations of the project back at  last year’s referendum, committee members are still largely satisfied with the progress that has been made in spite of the restrictions.

“Unfortunately we thought that we could build more than we could actually build with the budget that we had. The discussion has come up, whether we stop and go to referendum again. I think the chances are it wouldn’t even pass again the next time, then we wouldn’t get anything,” Morelli said, “It’s not like we lost a huge amount of potential. The other thing is the building is located on the site where there’s room for expansion later. If we can deliver a state of the art library, we can get people to start coming to the library and get bought into the library. We can add onto it in the future.”

The board will have its next meeting at the Southington Library at 6 p.m on Dec. 7.



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