Why Are We Building a Better Library?
Since 2006 this community has been in discussions about the spatial needs of our library. The quaint little farmhouse, with its doctor’s office ell and rear lean-to, which our 14 year old library moved to in 1927, had three additions added (1948, 1955 and 1961). 1967 saw the original farmhouse demolished to add a larger front building. Twenty years later more room was needed. In 1987 the back reading room was added. Over the course of those 80 years, each Woodstock generation blew out walls, stripped the library to studs, attached new buildings and updated space to meet their needs. It is 2018 and our community has now been without a facilities update for 31 years! Though our little library has served communities past, the Franken-building resulting from this pattern of addition has left our current community with an obsolete library facility. New advances in technology and greatly expanded library usage has fast outpaced yet another simple reconfiguration and new room.
For the past 12 years the community has grappled with how to address this issue. In 2006 the Library Board hired Architects + of Troy, New York to prepare a Feasibility Study which documented the need for an approximately 15,000 gross square foot building. The proposed plan, for renovation plus addition to provide adequate space for library functions, was dropped when the annual budget that year, which included start-up money for that project, was defeated. Subsequent community input (“World Café”) resulted in a plan to build an Annex on recently purchased laundromat property across Library Lane from the Library. Although substantial financial donations were received for this project, the Annex Project, ran into a number of community objections. The campaign was led by a small group of "concerned citizens," many of whom are part of the referendum and petition campaign of today. Ironically, this same group of citizens now say they would like to see the current structure renovated with an addition. What both of these opposition campaigns have in common is that they are wasting large amounts of restricted donations by library supporters, stopping the community from achieving a facility that meets recommended library programming needs and creating contentious discourse in our community.
By 2015, with the Annex Project shut down, our library facilities still were not meeting community needs. There is only 4,614 square feet of usable space in our current library. This is less than a third of the 15,000 gross sq. ft. quoted by two professional library planning firms. In tackling the space issue, the Library Board first asked an ad hoc committee, the Facilities Task Force, to reconsider all the information and direction that the Board should take. That group’s main recommendation in early 2015 was to undertake a Master Plan for the Library, which the Board did in 2016. This reinvestigation of the Library’s needs in light of current library standards and the fiscal implications of various options constituted due diligence by the Board on behalf of the public that elected them. With substantial public input into the Master Facilities Plan over 16 months, much of which was provided by building professionals (architects and contractors) but also lay-members of our community, the Board determined this past January that a new building, that would serve the community for at least the next fifty years, was the most responsible action to take.
Master Facilities Plan
The Master Facilities Plan (MFP) by ADG/Cohn, an architectural and library design team, was adopted by the Woodstock Library Board in 2017 in response to the primary recommendation of the Facilities Task Force appointed by the Board in 2015. The total budget for the MFP was $49,500, which was allocated from the Library's Capital and Reserve funds. The intensive public input process the MFP involved began in July 2016 with numerous tours of the library building by stakeholder groups to examine the assets and deficiencies in the present library and included open community meetings. The Library Board asked the consultant to explore a range of options for meeting the library's physical needs; they included 1) Renovation Only; 2) Renovation with small addition 2A) Renovation with larger addition;3) Building a new facility on the front lawn and keeping the present building; and 4) Replacing the present building with a new facility on the current site of the library. Please be aware that the consultant team was aware that they would not be automatically hired for the any resulting project (and have not been). These professionals concluded that a new building was the most realistic and fiscally responsible option for meeting present spatial needs of our library, as well as those contemplated for the foreseeable future.
The work done by ADG/Cohn also included an "Existing Building Conditions Survey" which reconfirmed many of the findings from the 2007 Feasibility Study. It wasn't good news. Contrary to rumors, many of the physical issues with the building have nothing to do with "ignored upkeep by a complacent board". There are significant issues with mold, lead and asbestos once walls are opened to upgrade all electrical, heating and plumbing systems to meet current codes. Built about 50 years ago, the structural support for the weight of books and shelving in the present building is far from sufficient. To update the current building for reconfiguration of shelving and/or second floor shelving, every floor joist and weight bearing wall must be rebuilt. All this will necessitate a gut renovation. Plus, any renovation work undertaken must meet accessibility standards (be ADA compliant) meaning that changes to the entrance, bathrooms, width of aisles between book shelves, access to the second floor will end up reducing the amount of usable library space!
Every concept in the Master Facilities Plan aside from Concept 3: Build on the Lawn includes operational downtime for the library. It is not true that the library will remain open to the public for Concept 2 or 2A: Renovate with Addition. Several local architects and contractors have stated that trying to operate in a construction site is infeasible from noise, space and safety standpoints.
Annotated Results from MFP:
Concept 1 - Renovate : Concept #1 would provide less than 50% of fully functional floor area required for the proposed program. We estimate that there would be an operational down‐time of about 1 year while this renovation is taking place.
Concept 2 - Renovate with small addition : would only provide about 83% of the proposed program in about 50% new space. Old building maintenance issues would remain. Due to the possibility of new construction starting while the existing building operates, we estimate the operational downtime to be about 9 months.
Concept 2A - Renovate with larger addition : Architecturally, this is a difficult concept, with a new 2‐story building that “wraps” the small, remaining structures entirely. This concept would be 82% new space but meet 100% of needed program. We estimated the operational down‐time to be about 18 months
Concept 3: Build on the front lawn : Note from board - Nobody including anyone in the library wants to lose our front lawn!!! So this Concept was immediately ruled out.
Concept 4: This concept explored the possibility of replacing the existing library in its entirety. Concept 2, 2A, and 4 would all sit in the same exact footprint as the current library and book barn. Concept 2A and 4 have the same estimated price tag. The operational down‐time would be about 18 months to 2 years. The advantages of all‐new space are discussed in “Case for a New Building” section.
The take away from the MFP is that the recommended answer to get the space our community is looking for would be to go with Concept 2A or Concept 4. While Concept 2 cost estimate ($4.1 million) is 71% of the cost estimate for Concept 2A or 4 ($5.8 million) it only gives 83% of the space the public is asking for. In addition on the back end and we quote "Old building maintenance issues would remain." which in the long run will increase overhead for maintenance and utility costs for the life of our library. This issue also remains with Concept 2A. In addition to these realistic concerns, theres serious design issue concerns. The exterior elevator shaft plus second floor foot bridge of Concept 2 leaves the board wondering how that would ever look anything but a modern day parking garage. The "Wrap Around" idea of 2A is also troublesome to try to envision ever looking good. As Mr. Cohn points out "this is a difficult architectural concept".
In the end Mr. Cohn makes clear his recommendation for a fiscally feasible, well designed building that will fit into Woodstock's street scape by devoting an entire section to the Master Facilities Plan called Case for A New Building, this can be found on pages 22-24 of the Master Facilities Plan.
Read Master Facilities Plan for yourself. We recommend pages 8-10 and 19-24. Master Facilities Plan
Read the accompanying Building Conditions Survey
The 2017 Survey is a much talked about document. We'd like a chance to talk about it. There was a lot of information to be gathered from the survey, much of it inconclusive, or in other words so spread out as to be up for interpretation. For example, 29% was the largest plurality for any one choice on the entire survey. 29% of surveyed voters chose Choice 1: Build New. 29% chose Choice 3: Renovate with Smaller Addition. Between them was 16% who chose Choice 2: Renovate with Larger Addition. But who gets to claim that additional 16%? The petitioners say its their camp: renovate and add, which sounds logical. But who's to say that the renovate and larger folks aren't more interested in gaining the 100% program space then they are in keeping the old building? That would place them in the Build New camp. The other thing that places that 16% in the Build New camp is that they are willing to spend $5.75-5.8 million on the facilities.
There were some issues with the survey itself. Here's a look at some of them. Out of six categories, FIVE reference the original building in one way or another. This has allowed the petition creators to push the narrative that 71% of registered voters all want the same thing. But they don't. 11% don't want to do anything. A mere 6% want to renovate with no additional space, and 6% don't want to do anything to the original building but they want to build out on the library lawn! All together that is 23% that are not going to get what they want, no matter what, because 83% of registered Woodstock voters want more space and 94% want that lawn perserved!
Another problem with the survey was in the language. Choices 1 (New), 2 (Renovate/Larger addition) & 3 (Renovate/Smaller addition) all had the same description of what the public would receive: "The new building will be larger, more energy efficient, filled with natural light, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, and allow for larger children and teen sections, a quiet comfortable reading room, flexible space for training, education, seminars along with cultural and community gatherings. The design will be in keeping with the Woodstock style and proportion." Who is to say what the reasons are behind someone's choice if all the choices appear to give you the same thing?
Then there was the money bonding question categories which didn't line up with the building choices. This further confused the numbers coming in. For example: 39% of registered Woodstock voters were willing to take on an annual tax hike of $88-155 or higher to support the library facilities, yet only 16% asked for the Choice 2 (Renovation/Larger Addition). Choice 2 was the only building category that called for an annual estimated tax increase of $98-115. Every other category including Choice 1 (New) called for $87 or less annual estimated increase.
In the end though your Library Board and Staff did find the survey useful. They definitely realized that no decision was going to meet everyone's opinion. There was NO majority without combining categories. The largest statistical plurality (29%) was matched in two categories: Build New or Renovate/Small Addition. The Library realized after twelve years of community asking that a decision HAD to be made. The "ask" they answered with the decision to Build New was to meet the community's needs for 100% of the programming space (45% surveyed in support). In the most fiscally supported manner (50% surveyed chose bond costs D, E, F: $56 to higher). Lastly, they took into consideration a facility that would be guaranteed to meet the needs of not only the PRESENT Woodstock community but also the FUTURE Woodstock community, in a building that would not "continue to have higher maintenance costs and higher energy costs" (Cohn. pg 23. Master Facilities Plan).
To read the survey results: The 2017 Survey
To read the survey comments: Survey Comments
Your Library Board answered the communities call for action to Build a Better Library and are now in the design phase. The Board of Trustees sent out over 40 individual invites in an open call for design entries. Twelve architects submitted proposals and three finalists were chosen. These are the final candidates: Ashokan Architecture (Kingston, NY); Argus Architecture (Troy, NY); Stephen Tilly, Architect (Dobbs Ferry, NY). Each finalist was given a stipend of $5000 to create their entry which will include sketches and models. This $15,000 came from Restricted Donations given specifically for the Design Phase of the project. Restricted Donations, unlike undeclared donations, MUST be spent on the particular purpose the donor has directed.
If you missed the Finalists Design Presentations on August 25, all three presentations were recorded and can be watched online HERE. There is a community presentation display and feedback session in the art room of Woodstock Library happening now and ongoing. Please take your opportunity to review whats being presented and fill out a feedback form for our Board.
The new library building will be sited in the same general area now occupied by the present building and will preserve our front lawn. The front façade of the historic 1812 doctor’s office will be preserved. The design of a new library building will reflect fit Woodstock’s vernacular architecture using like materials. A new building will meet the programming recommendations by the expert library planning firms and our Library staff. All areas of the new building will be fully ADA compliant and energy efficient thereby reducing the cost to taxpayers over the life of the building. There is no bond or final tax levy yet. Once the architect is chosen and a final design developed the actual costs of the new building will be known. A Capital Campaign to raise funds for the new building project will be undertaken with the expectation that any needed bonding will be a fraction of the current $5.8 million project budget.