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EDITORIAL: Meriden’s library looks to the future

EDITORIAL: Meriden’s library looks to the future

The Library Building Review Committee is looking at three options to upgrade the Meriden Public Library and is expected to recommend one of them when it meets again on June 26.

The vote was delayed because not enough committee members were on hand at a recent meeting. We urge the committee to make its recommendation at the next meeting.

The least expensive proposal, at $5.3 million, would not add any space but would renovate 75 percent of the library's first floor, upgrading and enlarging the children's room and first-floor bathrooms and adding about 1,500 square feet to the teen area.

Next is a $7.8 million plan to renovate the entire first floor, upgrading and enlarging the children's room by about 1,000 square feet, the multipurpose area by about 1,200 square feet, and the teen area by about 1,400 square feet.

The most comprehensive proposal — and the most expensive, at $9.3 million — would add a 9,000-square-foot addition to the library's first floor, add about 2,000 square feet to the children's room, add about 2,500 square feet to the multipurpose space, and add about 1,500 square feet to the teen area. This plan would gain space by demolishing a vacant house at 33 Catlin St.

This “big option,” like the other two, would also enlarge and upgrade the first-floor bathrooms, upgrade space dedicated to historical archives and the library's Holocaust collection, and improve the rear exterior stairwell. The plan also includes upgrades to the library's entrance, creates a cafe area and collaborative maker space and would preserve parking during construction.

While all three options would bring needed improvements to the 1970s-era building, including to the bathrooms, the big plan would contribute the most to the usefulness of the library long term, especially for children and teens. We supported that option in an editorial last month because it puts the library in the best position for the future.

The other two plans strike us as “Band-Aid” treatments, which is how committee chairman Carmine Trotta has characterized them.

The library has served the city well for more than four decades, without any major renovations. To expand it along the lines of the “big option” now under consideration may seem like a major step, but it would be a smaller step than the city took when it moved the library out of that little temple on the hill across the street from City Hall — which is now the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center.

Building a new library back then was a big step, financially, but it was also a vote of confidence in Meriden’s future.

We expect that the committee will recommend the “big option,” and we concur. Then it will be up to the City Council’s Finance Committee and the full City Council to determine the library’s future.

We may be in the internet age, but that has not made libraries obsolete — on the contrary, by incorporating computer services and other features, libraries have made themselves even more useful to the public in recent years.

We hope the city’s leaders will be prepared to bring the old library into the new century.