The following note was sent to the Village Council with a copy to the Village Manager.
It is my impression that the library director and board are asking the Council to pave over part of Veterans Field for parking so that they can increase services further and build a performance venue at the library.
This is a bad idea–no, a terrible idea. Our parks have already been largely given over to sports. What’s left must be considered sacrosanct. As the temporary custodians of the village, you make decisions that will last for decades or forever. You are responsible for holding firm on this. I believe such a decision would be wildly unpopular.
The proposed library upgrade calls for expanding the northwest corner of the building. I believe that land under and around the library is owned by the village and therefore controlled by the Council. Again, I urge you not to cede even one additional inch. The library should not have been built in a flood hazard zone in the first place. Hurricanes have brought floodwater up to the library steps–we have been lucky. The next one could be worse. Therefore, putting all that money into it while increasing the impermeable surface area would pose potential harms to the library itself as well as to other nearby buildings, including property and homes south of there on Warren Place and vicinity.
I believe that the Council should refuse to post yet another large bond, whether for $2 million or for $4 million, for a vanity project that would apparently serve to reduce the number of books in exchange for more chatting space. The timing is also unfortunate as we face years of upheaval, construction, and expense in our village. The new apartments may require both predictable and unpredictable major expenses related to water, sewage, traffic lights, and even building a new school or additions to the existing ones. This is no time to embark upon a project we do not need. Nor is there any guarantee that state grants of the hoped-for size, if any, will be forthcoming–or in fact that our fine library has a right to it so that we can move the main staircase and add a skylight, with many other public libraries in the state desperate to upgrade after far more than 20 years.
As an aside, I think the design is appalling. The upper level looks like a good place to fall from and the pillars holding it up are just things to walk into, like those outside the doors from the parking lot that merely hold up a pretentious sign. I have seen people looking down at a book or phone and just miss walking into them. Probably some people have walked into them. They are barriers and they are ugly. These would be worse.
Reworking the auditorium with fixed seating, whether the room were increased in size or not, would eliminate an important and frequently used gathering space. There is no equivalent space anywhere, and its proximity to Village Hall has made it useful on council election night, the reception after the biannual reorganization meeting, and much more. In addition, the latest drawing shows no aisle up the center–an annoying and potentially hazardous layout. For many reasons, that is not a good place for a performing arts center.
One might think the village had millions sitting around with nothing to spend it on. Coping with weather emergencies and their aftermath alone could require extraordinary outlays in years to come.
Please do not rubber-stamp the requests of the library board and director. I think the entire plan should be shelved–as do other village residents with whom I have spoken about it. I have heard nothing positive about it except officially and at public meetings. Do not let the library or the various people they ask to comment at council meetings push this through. It’s a compliment, not an insult, to say that the library is just fine. If anything, perhaps it’s time to pare down some of its endless offerings. If you don’t have room for something, don’t do it.