A project to expand the Tolland Public Library into the adjacent Hicks gymnasium is part of the Town Manager's proposed five-year capital budget.
Library Director Barbara Pettijohn said that the expansion, which would create an additional 4,900 square feet, will help the library better serve Tolland.
"Libraries are evolving from book warehouses to community centers," Pettijohn said. "For me, the main issue now is there's not enough room for big programs."
According to information from the Connecticut State Library and published by the Tolland Public Library Foundation, Tolland has less room than towns of comparable population. In a Letter to the Editor, the foudation published this info:
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
According to Pettijohn, the entirety of the project would cost around $2,378,573. The expansion project would include the construction of a mezzanine in the gymnasium and a larger program room, so lectures wouldn't need to be moved into the general library area. The current program room can only seat 40 people.
The installation of an elevator would also make town hall completely handicap-accessible, creating access from the back parking lot entrance to the second level.
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In addition, the extra space would allow the library to expand the space for young adult materials and create small tutoring rooms out of current office space, Pettijohn said.
Town Manager Steven Werbner said that a variety of library expansion projects have been brought foward over the years, including a proposal to construct an entirely new building.
He said that he is aiming to secure around $900,000 in grants for the expansion and to bond the remaining $1.7 million in costs. A referendum on the borrowing would need to be held, potentially in November 2013, to allow the town to bond for the project.
According to the Tolland Public Library Foundation letter, Werbner told the foundation, " 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."
"This seems to be a cost-effective way to address the library's future space needs," Werbner said to Tolland Patch.
If the project and bonding is approved, Pettijohn said that construction would begin in 2014-2015.
A public hearing on the capital budget will be held on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.