2014-04-24 / News

Library renovations on the horizon

By Ken Shane

There are some major changes in the works at the Jamestown Philomenian Library.

After three years of study, library officials are moving forward with plans to improve the building’s internal and external areas, as well as its mechanical systems. A public meeting was recently held to let residents have a look at the proposed changes.

According to library director Donna Fogarty, the changes were first contemplated when she arrived in 2010. Fogarty met with staff to discuss improvements such as traffic flow and book storage. The library was about 20 years old then, and had never had a major upgrade.

“A lot of things have changed in library services in that time,” Fogarty said.

Special scrutiny was given to the children’s room, which is overseen by librarian Lisa Sheley. Fogarty said the decoration and design of the area was analyzed, and there was consensus that the stacks were too high for the children to see some of the book covers.

That’s when they started looking more closely. “What about the rugs, and interior paint, and what about space for young adults,” Fogarty said. “We decided we needed to look at the whole building to see what we need to have for the future.”

Sheley, who had been at the library for about a year when Fogarty arrived, approached the director with a request for more space. A committee that included local residents was formed to investigate ways to improve the children’s room. When those changes were decided upon, the project began to snowball to include the entire library.

“We met several times and then we had to let the project go,” Sheley said. “It was going to affect so many other things in the library. It didn’t make sense to make these changes that were going to be somewhat costly if there was going to be a greater renovation coming down the line.”

In 2011, Fogarty approached the library’s trustees to discuss what she had in mind. She asked the board to consider hiring a consultant to determine how the space could be better used. The consultant was hired, and input was sought from the public and staff as well. When the study results were brought to the trustees, they decided to form a committee to determine the best path forward. The committee recently provided its recommendations. In response to the committee’s recommendations, the trustees issued a request for qualifications for an architect to implement schematic drawings. The drawings were done by Mohamad Farzin of NewPort Architecture. Farzin’s firm was one of eight that answered a previous request for qualifications that was issued in 2013.

“The committee did a lot of research on the uses, what other libraries are doing, what’s coming in the future, and how the Jamestown patrons use this library,” Fogarty said.

The drawings include new interior spaces, as well as a new public space outside that will allow for more outdoor programming during the nice weather. Fogarty said the trustees also hope to reopen the library’s front entrance to make the building more welcoming to pedestrians and bicyclists. Upgrades to make the building’s mechanical systems more energy efficient are also on the wish list, as are new computer systems and A/V improvements to the frequently used meeting hall.

The next step is for the trustees to bid out the engineering and mechanical drawings for the redesign.

“[The schematic drawings were] just the visual possibilities of what we could do with the building and lot that we have,” Fogarty said. “Now the mechanics and engineering needs to be drawn in.”

Thus far the expenses for the project have been borne by the trustees. Once a preliminary budget is provided for implementation, it will become necessary to raise funds. That will be done through the combination of a capital campaign and grant applications. Since the town owns the library building, it will undoubtedly weigh-in on the process as well.

Fogarty doubts that taxpayers will be impacted much by the project.

“The trustees may ask the town to support some of the mechanical [aspects], like the air-conditioning improvements,” Fogarty said. “Only so [the library] can be more energy efficient. It needs to be done.”

Fogarty hopes the work can start soon. It has been a long process that is reaching its conclusion, she said, and some of the issues need to be addressed.

“I think the building will be more energy efficient. There will be more outdoor space for community residents to use and enjoy. We will have more space for adults in the front of the building. It will be visually appealing with a solarium on each end of the building for quiet reading. It will be user-friendly. It will just be a more comfortable space.”

Sheley is also excited. “I think it’s going to be a better patron experience all around, for the kids and the adults,” she said. “It will be more user-friendly for the kids, giving them more space to spread out, read books, play with puzzles, and do things that they come to the library to do. It will be a more welcoming area for the adults as well.”

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