could get a complete makeover in the coming years, but the process has only just begun.
Members of the briefed the Board of Selectmen Wednesday on the building’s issues and potential solutions.
“This is Step One of the library updating us on their concerns,” First Selectmen Michael Tetreau said.
The Fairfield Woods Branch Library -- the busiest branch library in Connecticut -- has its fair share of ailments. The leaky roof is overdue for replacement; the mezzanine is virtually inaccessible to handicapped patrons; the only elevator is outdated and does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) codes; and the ground floor, which houses the town’s emergency backup servers, is susceptible to water breaches during heavy rainstorms.
The building was constructed in 1969 and expanded in 1991, the last major project the library underwent. Trustee board members said the 1991 expansion comprised of mainly exterior improvements; the interior mechanics of the building are more than 40 years old.
The roof was slated to be replaced in 2008 but the project was postponed by former First Selectman Kenneth Flatto for further assessment, according to the presentation given by the trustee board.
Selectman James Walsh said he would “go on record” to say that Flatto was not correct to remove the roof project. “It’s a disgrace that the roof wasn’t done when it was first needed,” he said.
The growth of patrons, programs, and services offered by the library also appear to be outgrowing the 18,600 square foot space. The Fairfield Woods Branch Library has one small meeting room and -- according to the Board of Trustee members -- that’s not enough for a 21st century library. The 21st century library should not only house books but function as a “community living room” for recreational and cultural programs, trustee board member Dr. Manyul Im said.
The Board of Trustees began to look into solutions to the building’s issues when they funded and conducted a feasibility study with an architect several months ago. Four options arose, ranging from building an addition, to renovating the existing building, to completely demolishing the existing building and constructing a larger, ADA-compliant one on the same property.
The Board of Trustees recommends the latter option, which would result in a 24,100 square foot building and could cost approximately $13 million. Board Chair Robert Frigo explained these were “very rough estimates.”
If approved by the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, and Representative Town Meeting, tearing down and rebuilding the library is projected to take just shy of three years, according to the trustees’ presentation.
There was some discussion of additional options, such as the library finding a bigger space in town to move into permanently. Town Librarian Karen Ronald pointed out that the site is “working” because of the location and “walkability” for all different patrons, ranging from young students to seniors.
“If we found a bigger site elsewhere it might not work as well, “she said.
Walsh warned that complete reconstruction would be “a hard sell to the public” in current economic times, “especially when they see the tax impact that’s about to hit.”
Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey agreed. “We’re going to have some tough conversations.” But she added the library is “a vital community resource.”
Should the Fairfield Woods Branch Library be demolished, and a larger facility take its place? Tell us what you think in the comments.