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OPINION: Doubts spur video about Southington library project

The project to build a new library in Southington has been weathering a bad vibe. It’s what happens when people lose confidence, and it can be hard to overcome. Supporters seem to recognize this, and there’s an effort to counteract negative perceptions. My guess is it has a chance of working.

About that confidence part: When one of the political parties bails that’s a significant indication. In late April, Democrats called for a pause in the project after comments from the Planning and Zoning Commission expressed a lack of enthusiasm when it came to how the new building was going to look. Since a library can be viewed as a de facto symbol of a municipality, that is hardly a detail.

The library is a project of the pandemic. Voters were asked to approve a major vision for the future at a time when the present was very bleak. That made the project a significant gesture. You could view it as a display of municipal fortitude.

Once the plan was set, supporters had a few months to convince voters it was worth the money. That effort succeeded when at the polls in 2021 the town approved spending $17 million. The library will replace one that for far too long has been way too small and no longer up to suiting the needs of the town.

But what looked like enough money in 2021 turned out to be a different story as the months wore on. Costs climbed and library plans began to face the need for compromise. There are those who feel the compromises go too far, and what’s been needed is a champion, someone or something to work to convince doubters the project will still provide the town a library worth supporting.

And now that appears to be happening. Christian Metzger’s recent Record-Journal report contains a lot of detail about recent developments of concern to the Library Building Committee, as this example shows: “The book sale room has also been greatly extended, and the local history room has been moved from an upstairs space to a room on the lower level where the teen conference room used to be.”

And so on. But what caught my attention was the plan to respond to criticism, as in “Facebook pages like Southington Talks,” by putting together a video that goes through the plans, the process and the benefits.

“We have to clarify some of the misinformation and we thought how we’d do it is get some kind of technical presentation,” said Jim Morelli, building committee chairman.

More information is always welcome, though we live in a time when people get swamped by it. The video’s expected 15 minutes seems reasonable enough. Plans are to present it on the library website. “It’s really an overview from start to finish, it’s really well done,” said Morelli.

He told the R-J an idea had been for him to do a podcast after each committee meeting. That apparently was not considered something that could be done, so the video is an alternative. At least now when people have questions they can be directed to the video for answers.

What counts here is responding to doubts. That effort is needed now the same way as when support was being sought in the first place. You might not need the votes but you still want approval.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.


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