Plans for renovations to the Southington Public Library are making progress. Architect Jeffrey Hoover, from Taipei Architects in Boston, Mass., presented to the town council.
“The library is unique in the community as it is one building where everybody uses it equally,” said library board of directors chair Kevin Curtis. “It’s open to everybody, at any age.”
Currently, there are challenges within the library regarding space, ADA compliance, fire code compliance and age of the building and its utilities. The building itself is 45 years old, and safety has become a concern.
“Currently it does not allow for equal access for everybody in the community. There are deficiencies,” said Curtis. “It is outdated and people can’t fit in it.”
Curtis said the library has spent over $20,000 in repairs in this year, stating the town has been “throwing good money at a deteriorating building.”
The Taipei Architects representative has been reviewing the library’s current state along thousands of community responses to come up with a plan that best fits the townspeople’s’ needs and desires. He explained he is just past the preliminary programming and community outreach portion of the project.
Hoover said a total of 1,311 surveys were completed by community members in just a two week period and were returned to the library. On top of that, the library has received over 5,000 narrative responses. He has been taking those responses, reading them all, categorizing them and representing them in an analytical format to figure out the needs of the community.
“We want to know what’s good about the current library so we can maintain and expand upon and improve that,” said Hoover. “It’s also good to hear people’s complaints so we can address those and improve those areas.”
There were three basic questions that the surveys were looking for: what works, what doesn’t, and what is missing.
“Our expertise combined with hearing from the community is essential,” said Hoover. “Having the opportunity within our process to hear from everybody is important to getting the library right. Libraries need to be custom made to the community—there is no ‘one size fits all’ in this day in age.”
Hoover said a team of engineers reviewed the library’s condition and determined most of the building’s utilities are at or beyond their useful lifespan. “We would need to start with all new systems—that’s pretty much where we are.”
Because of the library’s conditions, Taipei Architects is looking into two scenarios for renovations: either expanding the current library and shuffling departments around during construction, or building an entirely new library on the same site while keeping the current library open and running until construction is complete, then demolishing the old building.
According to Hoover, the library’s current location has great potential. The team will be looking into maximizing that potential, even down to considering the sun’s angles and how the sunlight plays into the building’s efficiencies, and the views of nature for the library’s office rooms.
Taipei Architects will continue reviewing and come up with a plan that works for everyone. Early concept plans will be presented at a community meeting at the library on Jan. 23, 2020 at 6:30 p.m.
“Members of the community are invited to come to the library in the downstairs meeting room to get a look,” said Curtis. “We are looking for community feedback.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.