Library Building Committee Meetings are scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays of each month, 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Please come! For agendas and minutes, scroll to the bottom of this page.
March 2 2016 Presentation (PDF file- you’ll need Adobe Reader)
December 2 Presentation (PDF file- you’ll need Adobe Reader)
Library Expansion Update
December 2015: The committee’s goal is to have a well-developed concept, including floor plans and exterior views, ready by the beginning of March. This is an ambitious goal, but one the committee and architects are working diligently to achieve. To that end, the committee has scheduled twice -a -month meetings for all of 2016. Meetings will be held on the first and third Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Anyone interested in the committee’s progress is encouraged to attend these meetings, and to follow minutes and agendas that are posted on this page. Two notebooks containing meeting records, including architectural presentations are being maintained; one is available for review in the First Selectman’s office at Town Hall and the other at the library.
Upcoming meeting dates are January 6 & 20, February 3 & 17, March 2 & 16 and April 6 & 20.
March 2015: At Town Meeting on March 5, voters authorized the expenditure of $100,000 for the purpose of preparing schematic design plans for a new library in North Quarter Park (NQP). These funds will be transferred from unexpended funds already held by the town. Upward of 70 people listened to the presentation by the Library Trustees that was followed by questions and comments and, finally the voice vote. This money will underwrite confirmation of NQP as a suitable site for the new library and development of the schematic plans that include:
- Site plan with grading and drainage proposals
- Floorplans & elevations
- Proposed furnishings, materials and finishes
- Building systems narrative
Upon completion of these steps, an accurate cost estimate of the project will be developed. This estimate, in conjunction with private fundraising and other grant awards, will make it possible to determine the cost to the town and individual homeowners. Throughout the process, residents are encouraged to attend Library Building Committee meetings on the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall. Anyone interested is encouraged to sign up to receive building project updates by sending a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Library Trustees have been hearing a lot of questions about the possibility of building a new library in North Quarter Park, some of which are answered here.
The present library is a little gem. What’s wrong with continuing to use it just as it is? It IS a wonderful architectural gem, an architectural gem that was built to house 3,500 books and serve a population of 1,419. We are now a town of 4,245 people and the library houses 20,000 books, movies, music CDs, and periodicals. As a public library, the building should be accessible to all Chester residents; it is not. The outside steps are a challenge, but the inside stairs (to the basement, which holds half of our collection) are even worse and present a challenge to all ages, from those with creaky knees to those trying to guide toddlers down to story time. The basement is a problem for people with asthma and allergies. There is not enough room for print and recorded books, movies, technology, and, most importantly, for people. There is no program space and very little comfortable space in which to sit and read. Library users must walk through the staff work area to reach the restroom. Children cleaning up after a craft project must wash hands in a bucket of water carried down from upstairs. One staff member uses a window sill as her desk, and storage space is in extremely short supply.
Why can’t we just provide handicapped access to the present library so we can stay where we are? We worked with an architect on expansion possibilities for more than two years and came up with three different approaches that we presented to the community. While we learned that the size of the library could probably be doubled (from 2000 to 4000 sf), the functional increase would be minimal – not much new space for materials, technology, or people. That’s because ADA laws require ramping, adding an elevator, bringing the stairs up to code, adding a handicapped restroom, and making the aisles wider and bookshelves shorter. The cost for each design approach was estimated at about $3 million. When we factored in the reactions of the community to altering the exterior of our historic building and the concerns of the United Church of Chester trustees over our expansion plans (the church owns the property on which the library sits), we decided a new building elsewhere would be a better approach.
Why is North Quarter Park (NQP) the spot being considered? A number of factors make North Quarter Park a desirable location for a new library. Its geographic location in town couldn’t be better: the park is a high-visibility gateway to Chester that’s less than ½ mile from the center of town. Today, libraries are being built with abundant natural light and strong connections to outdoor space; where better to build than a park? The town already owns the land, thereby reducing the cost of the library project. Test pits dug in 2001, 19 of them, revealed no foreign material raising environmental concerns, and additional tests are proposed for this spring. Further, NQP (and the former Community Center) has been named in town studies since 1978 as needing improvement, better utilization, evaluation, beautification. North Quarter Park currently has walking trails, a children’s playscape and ballfield, a copse of beautiful old trees and limited parking. The 2014 NQP Master Plan calls for preserving and upgrading these amenities. With the addition of the library and its community space and restrooms for park users, NQP becomes a multi-use community destination for all ages.
Aren’t libraries obsolete and won’t everyone be using electronic media in the future? Libraries are not obsolete, but their roles are changing. They used to be hushed repositories for books, now they are lively locations providing access to information, technology, creativity, and yes, still books! It is likely that less library space will be devoted to shelving books in the future, but studies show that 70% of adults in this country read a traditional book in print in 2013; this number is actually up a bit from the previous year. Further, most people who read e-books (28% of adults) also read print books, and just 4% of readers are “e-book only,” so it’s unlikely that electronic formats will totally replace traditional books. Libraries of the future will be important points of equal access to information, materials, technology, culture and, in a world where more and more of us work in isolation, to each other. In short they will be places for social interaction as well as quiet reading. Attendance at Chester Library’s programs is up 55% in the last 2 years. In Chester’s most recent Community Needs Assessment, almost 2/3 of respondents indicated that they wanted their library to be the most convenient source for information, and more than half wanted it to ‘stay ahead of the curve’ technologically. Creating a library that can do all this largely depends on a building designed with significant flexibility to accommodate changing space needs and rapidly advancing technology.
What are the advantages of a new, community-centered library for Chester? Where to start? Perhaps with a building that’s fully accessible for everyone and housing collections that are easily reached (no books on stairwells, or shelved too high or too low) and expanded to reflect Chester’s 21st-century reading, viewing and listening preferences. Planned to accommodate current and emerging technologies, the new library will provide ample computer access and the opportunity to offer computer-based classes. Comfortable reading and relaxing areas will create a community living room of sorts that accommodates spontaneous use by friends, students, business colleagues and others. Community event space offering seating for 70+ with efficiency kitchen facilities will be available days, nights and weekends, even when the library is closed. This space will support both library and community programs ranging from preschool story and craft hours to tutoring and Friends book sales, flu shot and tax preparation clinics, ‘office hours’ with elected representatives, and regular gatherings of shared interest groups (knitters, quilters, writers, board gamers, crafters & Zentanglers to name a few) who want to use Chester Library. Located in an improved North Quarter Park, with its play scape, ball field and nature walks, the new library will have restrooms available to park users and will enhance the park’s attractiveness as multi-use destination for all ages. Many people in Chester visit libraries in surrounding towns. They may go to Essex for its children’s room, to Deep River for the computer availability, or to Killingworth for its collection of recorded books. Having a library in Chester that meets residents’ needs for space, for technology, for resources, means not having to travel to another town. It saves time, it saves money, it helps us, as Tammy Eustis says, “stay home in Chester.”
Will a new library cost us more for staffing and maintenance? Structurally, the building is being designed for high energy efficiency and long-term durability, incorporating proven technologies and materials, and intended to meet community needs well into the 21st century. Finding the balance between construction and ongoing maintenance costs is a high priority. Additionally, the building is being designed inside with open spaces and clear lines of sight to assure maximum service and supervision with minimum staff. For example, standing at the circulation desk a staff member will be able to oversee the adult collection wing, computer area, teen space, building entrance and children’s area. Further design refinements this spring will help clarify staffing needs. Currently, the library employs the equivalent of 2 full-time employees, and volunteers assist with regular tasks such as covering new books and discarding old ones, and with special projects and programs. It is reasonable to expect that increased library usage and the greater range of programs that will develop in the new building are likely to make additional staff desirable at some future time.
How will the $100,000 being requested at the March 5 Town Meeting advance this project? This funding will pay for a number of essential project development activities that are planned to take place this spring, including:
- Performing soil borings necessary to determine the type of foundation needed, and to aid in evaluating soils for environmental contaminants .
- Completing the building design, including developing exterior elevations and floor plans that include proposed furnishings, materials and finishes. Descriptions of building systems (mechanical, electrical, HVAC, etc.) will be written.
- Developing erosion, drainage control and grading solutions, and locating utilities.
- Planning for landscaping and relocation of the childrens’ playscape
- With all of the above accomplished, accurate estimating of building construction and total project costs, including alternative approaches, will be completed.
In short, the $100,000 allocation will answer the questions “What will the new library include?”, “What will it look like?”, and “What is it going to cost?”
Will the community have a chance to offer input on the proposed building project this spring? Yes! The process will be collaborative, inclusive and transparent. Collaborative in that the Building Committee and architect have been and will continue to work with the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, NQP Committee, Main Street Committee, Library Trustees, library staff, and others. Inclusive in seeking input from all stakeholders including interested citizens, library patrons, and neighbors. Transparency is a priority; all building committee meetings are open to the public and its agendas and minutes are posted here on the Library website. Those interested are encouraged to sign up to receive building project updates by sending a request to email@example.com.
Agendas / Minutes
December 3 2014 Library Bldg. Cmte. Agenda
October 22 2014 Library Bldg. Committee Agenda|Minutes
September 17 2014 Bldg. Comm. Agenda
Library Bldg. Cmte. August 13, 2014 Agenda|Minutes
Library Bldg. Cmte. July 30, 2014 Agenda|Minutes
Library Building Commtee July 16, 2014 Agenda|Minutes
Library Building Cmte. July 2, 2014 Agenda|Minutes
Library Bldg. Cmte. June 18, 2014 Agenda|ROV |Minutes
June 5 2014 LBC Agenda| Minutes
Library Bldg. Committee May 15, 2014 Agenda|ROV|Minutes
Library Bldg. Cmte. May 6, 2014 Agenda|ROV|Minutes
May 1 2014 Building Committee Mtg. Agenda|ROV/Minutes