To the editor,
We, the board of directors of the Tolland Public Library Foundation, have urged the Tolland town council to approve an exciting expansion of the Tolland Public Library into the old Hicks gym at Town Hall.
We hope residents will also support the project, which Town Manager Steven Werbner has proposed in the five-year capital budget plan.
The library is already the only town building routinely used by Tolland residents of all ages, and we believe the expansion will allow it to evolve into a true community gathering place.
Some residents may underestimate the role and potential for a modern library to be an information center and a community hub.
They may not know that already, many unemployed people – from their 20s to their 50s -spend their days at the library using its computers because they can no longer afford to pay for cable or Internet services at home.
There’s a lively buzz in the library on weekday afternoons when students gather in its safe setting to do their homework and work with tutors.
The library is a vibrant place for parents to take their children to share the adventure of reading with them. It is also a comforting place for seniors to come to relieve the isolation of living at home.
With technology changing rapidly, the library is more valuable than ever as a place where trained professionals can guide residents of all ages on how to make sense of social media, the Internet and computer software.
Demand is high, for example, for e-books, and the library and Foundation directors have held several demonstrations of how to use e-readers and computer databases funded by the Foundation, such as Ancestry.com, Consumer Reports and Credo Research. Without the library, some residents would have little knowledge of how to access this changing landscape.
The library is evolving, and residents can evolve along with it if this project is approved. For example, the project would provide for expanded patron seating and increased access to the library’s books, computers, films, music and magazines.
There will be more room for children’s and parents’ programs and materials, giving families more opportunities to learn together.
The expansion would provide a permanent area for the sale of used books, which an bring in revenue for the library.
It will include specialized spaces such as a coffee bar for residents of all ages to gather and space for businesspeople to charge their phones and use the free wi-fi service.
The project would also provide meeting space for community groups, tutoring sessions and study groups, so those patrons can talk in the library without disturbing other patrons.
The library staff holds dozens of programs each year and circulates thousands of books each year. The current layout and program room, however, are major impediments to holding even larger events.
The program room has a legal capacity of 40 people and is only 800 square feet. The Foundation, therefore, has had to move popular events into the main room of the library to meet the demand for residents. For example, more than 60 people attended a session in October on how to pay for college. Demand was so high, another session was held in December, attended by 30 people. Still more people want to come again, so another session has been added for April 10.
Holding such an event in the main part of the library is disruptive to other patrons who have come in for a quiet place to read or conduct research.
The larger program room in the plans would be 1,200 square feet – a size that would allow the library, Foundation and Friends of the Tolland Public Library to hold larger events in the proper setting.
The current library is cramped, outdated and smaller than libraries in similar towns. Here are some comparisons to other public libraries in Connecticut, according to the Connecticut State Library:
Town Population Library size, sq. ft.
Tolland 15,052 13,348
Ellington 15,602 28,000
Colchester 16,068 20,000
Seymour 16,540 18,000
Stafford 12,087 17,500
Suffield 15,735 14,299
Mr. Werbner tells us the project’s cost will have a minimal impact on the town’s debt burden and will not require an increase in the tax rate. With interest rates and bidding on contracts at low levels, now is an advantageous time to take on such a project. The design also includes an elevator, which will make the town hall fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
For all of the above reasons, the Foundation would like to be the town council’s partner in gathering support in the community for this expansion.
President Linda Byam,
Vice President Mary Jo Leahy
Treasurer Pauline Sardo
Secretary Kate Farrish
Founding President Betty-Lou Griffin
Members James Gifford and Dani Titterton
Tolland Public Library Foundation