Meriden library gets to expand

Through a series of recent votes by the City Council, the Meriden Public Library is now on the way to a renovation and expansion. It’s an outcome that for a while was far from certain. Now all residents can celebrate what is a positive move toward the city’s future.

The council had, before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, approved a plan that would have allowed for a base renovation of the 45,000-square-foot building. While that was certainly better than nothing, it was a disappointment to many supporters who felt the library was too small to adequately serve the city. City Councilor Michael S. Rohde essentially made the point while the council was discussing the issue, pointing out that when the library was built nearly half a century ago there were about 51,000 residents, compared to about 60,000 today.

“The bottom line is this: that the library is just too small,” he said. “It’s too small and it’s been too small for many years. We have the opportunity to affect this community, over the next 40 to 50 years, to get to a bigger size.”

Thomas Welsh, a member of the library board and chair of the Library Building Committee, told the Record-Journal the expansion allows for more programming and increased activity. “The building limited us to what we can do,” he said.

The expansion increases the total public space by more than 3,200 square feet and nearly doubles meeting space to just under 5,000 square feet. Council approvals included a vote to use $1.9 million in federal American Rescue Act funding to replace the library’s old heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

As the R-J reported, the expansion brings the total project budget to more than $13.02 million, from the previous cost of just under $10.25 million. The added expense is certainly not insignificant, but it can also be looked at as an investment in the future.

Libraries can play an important role in a community. Meriden’s is centrally located, in an area that includes the Meriden Green and that has been a focus of revitalization efforts. The council’s votes can be seen as further commitment.


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