By SHERIDAN ROY
Plans towards a new and improved Southington Public Library are moving forward. A library planning committee has been formed and has held a few meetings to interview architectural firms for an expansion project.
So far, the committee has met on July 29 and 31. The library board, a separate entity from the committee, also met on Aug. 5 to discuss the interviews and select an architectural firm. The board will then make a recommendation to the town council about which firm should be hired.
“The planning committee is intended to be a temporary committee to interview, assist with the selection of and to work with an architectural firm on concept plans for a library building project,” said Southington Public Library director Kristi Sadowski. “There are no official set meetings at this time other than those posted by the town clerk.”
Sadowski said all agendas will be posted on the town website to inform residents of upcoming meetings and their purposes.
Back in the spring, the library board hosted an informational meeting regarding the expansion project. The board hopes to approach the council and request a referendum for the project as early as 2020.
According to Sadowski, the library is moving more towards a community space where residents come with school or work assignments, meet tutors, or even spread out and pay their bills. Expanding quiet workspace is a priority.
Another priority is to make sure the library is up to code with Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. As the library’s collection has grown, collection space has grown tight. The outdated elevator is not ADA compliant, either, along with other issues throughout the building.
The Southington library also does not meet the state library’s recommended standards for space. The population in town has increased by more than 30 percent since 1974, but the library space has remained the same.
The Southington library’s size is a fraction of the size of libraries in nearby towns. Southington’s library is 21,000 square feet for a population of about 43,800. Plainville’s library is 30,000 square feet for a population of about 17,694. Wallingford’s library is more than triple the size of Southington’s—68,000 square feet for a population of about 44,960.
Despite its size, Southington library’s usage has continued to increase. Items borrowed from 1975 to 2018 increased by 168%. The collection size increased by 109%. Program attendance has increased by 479%.
Sixty-two percent, or 10,508 of Southington households, have at least one active library card. The library averages 685 visitors per day—some days the library exceeds 1,000 visits.
As discussions continue, library officials said that they remain open to input from residents about what they want their home-town library to look like, to offer and to be.
“I have received some feedback from the public, but more is always appreciated,” said Sadowski.