SOUTHINGTON — The committee and architect tasked with designing a new town library will publicly unveil two separate plans during two public meetings to be held at the library on Jan. 23.
One plan would be to construct a brand new, larger library building, while the other plan would renovate and expand the current 45-year-old building on Main Street.
Kevin Curtiss, chairman of the library's Board of Directors, said those plans as presented would still be in their early concept phases. The purpose of the next community meetings, to be held at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., would be to gather more public input as those plans are finalized, Curtiss said.
Jeff Hoover, an architect with the Boston-based firm Tappé Architects, updated the Town Council earlier this month on the work his firm has completed to date.
That work has included reviewing the library's existing site as well as surveying town residents. Hoover told the council the firm hopes to present finalized plans for either a new or expanded library to the town by late February or early March.
Tappé received 1,311 responses to its survey. It asked residents a variety of questions including whether they had visited the library in the past year, what services they felt could be offered at the library and more.
Library Board of Directors member Joanne Kelleher, who chairs its library planning committee, said a large cross-section of the community, in terms of demographics, responded to the survey.
“They included regular users of the library and people who hadn't been in a long time,” Kelleher said.
The current building is not in compliance with local fire codes nor is it fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Survey respondents cite issues with getting in and out of the building's elevator and limited space in its children's department.
Patrons in the children's section at the Southington Public Library, 255 Main St., on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. |Bailey Wright, Record-Journal
“Children definitely wanted a larger children's department, and overall people want more space for programs with a larger community room... And people are interested in having smaller spaces where groups can meet, have one-on-one tutoring and get together for projects,” Kelleher said.
"I'm very impressed with the number of people who completed the survey. It showed people in our community care about the library and want to see it improve."
-Kevin Curtiss, chairman of the library's Board of Directors
Library Director Kristi Sadowski said about 62% of the town’s households have an active library card. The library itself saw more than 200,000 visitors in the past year, and circulated more than 380,000 items, she said.
“Only 8.9% of those materials was digital. The demand for physical items is still huge,” Sadowski said.
She said despite the library’s limited physical space it is still in high demand.
“We're offering 500-plus programs a year. We are answering 54,000 questions for the community,” she said.
Ramen Rescildo, 5, of Southington, plays a computer game about the human body while at the Southington library on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. | Bailey Wright, Record-Journal
Curtiss was impressed with the number of responses the survey had elicited, and he wasn't surprised by responses received.
“We knew a lot about the inadequacy of the current building,” Curtiss said. “I'm very impressed with the number of people who completed the survey. It showed people in our community care about the library and want to see it improve,” Curtiss said. “We're working closely with the Town Council and elected officials to create a number that will fit within the town's budget and will give us the building we need and will last for the future.”
The current building is around 21,000 square feet in size. Officials are currently proposing an expansion that would increase the total size to at least 37,000 square feet.
Curtiss said in the coming weeks the town will have more solid numbers to look at regarding the costs of either new construction or an expansion and renovation project.