Library expansion project moves forward

At its Jan. 14 meeting, the Selectboard voted unanimously to include the bond for the library expansion as an item on the Town Meeting Day Australian ballot. This will give every voter in town the opportunity to weigh in on the expansion project.

Fueled by the need for adequate space to accommodate the programs and activities that have grown out of the interests and needs of our community over the past 20 years, the expansion project includes an enlarged children’s area, a dedicated program room that can be closed off from the main library for after-hour use, and additional study and storage space. The adult reading room will recapture its original space, half of which is now filled with children’s books. Updating the 20-year-old heating and cooling systems, adding south-facing solar panels and refurbishing some of the original space are also included in the plans.

For over 10 years, the library’s Board of Trustees has been working on resolving the library’s space issues and over a year ago voted to move forward with plans for an addition. The Friends of the Library board agreed to support the project and hired an architect to design the space and estimate its cost. Using those plans and figures the Friends group, through a grant, then funded a feasibility study to test support for such a project and to determine what portion of the projected cost could be raised in private donations. We note that in 1998 the Friends group paid for the current building with funds raised privately and then deeded the library to the town.

The consultants (CPG Enterprises) concluded that there is clearly support for the expansion and that the Friends of the Library could raise half of the $1.4 million needed to construct an environmentally sensitive addition that compliments the aesthetics of our current building. As indicated above, the cost includes the new construction, as well as renovation of some of the existing space. The bond on the upcoming ballot is for the remaining $700,000.

Fundraising began quietly in the late fall, and the Friends group has already raised about half of its commitment. This effort is now expanding and over the next few months will reach out to the entire Charlotte community. We hope for widespread support and a positive response to our solicitations.
We encourage you to stop by the library to see the three-dimensional model that is on display, along with floor plans and a sketch of the exterior that faces the Town Green. We are scheduling special open house hours for interested townspeople to stop in for more information. Check for updates to this schedule on the library website, and on Front Porch Forum.

The numbers support the need for an expansion:

  • Over 70 percent of Charlotters have library cards.
  • The library offered 330 programs last year for all ages (3,000 people attended these) in response to community input in the library’s strategic plan.
  • Program attendance increased by 91 percent from 2013 to 2017.
  • We now have 13,000 volumes in a space designed for 8,000.
  • 20,000 people came through our doors during our last fiscal year.

In this time of great inequalities, the Charlotte Library is an equalizer. Its services are available to everyone, no matter their situation. Some are eager to learn about technology options; some need a peaceful place to hang out; others are simply searching for the next good read. Programs requested and supported by community members reflect that Charlotters look to the library as the place where things happen.

The library has become an essential resource in Charlotte, enhancing the community and making it a very desirable place to live.

Mark the date for the bond vote on your calendars—March 5, by Australian ballot during the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Charlotte Central School or by absentee ballot. We hope you will support this important town resource!