Pierson Library Steering Committee meets with architects to discuss library plans

One of four potential site plans for the renovation of Pierson Library presented to the Steering Committee on Monday, Dec. 15 by Maclay Architects.
One of four potential site plans for the renovation of Pierson Library presented to the Steering Committee on Monday, Dec. 15 by Maclay Architects.

By Amanda Holman

When the first Shelburne library was founded in 1888, it housed around 100 volumes and catered to a population of about 1,300. Today, Shelburne’s Pierson Library has over 25,000 books in its collection and serves a population of over 7,000. Yet, the library collection is still expanding.

The Pierson Library Building Steering Committee met Monday, Dec. 15 with Maclay Architects Bill Maclay and Bill Gallup to discuss possibilities for renovating or rebuilding the Pierson Library. The library was moved nearly 14 years ago to the former police station, and according to long time Board of Trustees member Bob Dilts, “When we moved, we knew that 10 or 15 years down the road, we would need renovations.”

The library has about 8,200 square feet of useable space, much of which includes the basement of the Town Hall assembly space where the children’s collection is currently housed. The basement has deferred maintenance issues, including bad soundproofing and mold, which were addressed in the architects’ plans.

The committee first met with the architects to discuss rebuilding the library in November, 2011. However, the plans became very extensive and expensive. They included using a large sum of money to make the new building energy efficient and visually inviting, and were subsequently put on hold.

The impetus for revitalizing the project came with the installment of new Town Manager Joe Colangelo and new Library Director Laura Keenan, who both felt the need for renovations more acutely. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Colangelo stated. “We thought it was important to go through the process of exploring all options.” Therefore, the committee tasked Maclay Architects with the project and set a $2 million budget.

In the meeting on Monday, the architects presented three different design options that kept to the budget, and one that exceeded it by $1.6 million.

The first option was considered the best regarding useable space. It would increase the useable square footage by 43 percent by renovating the basement and building a small addition. However, this option did not address energy efficiency and would keep the children’s collection in the basement. In addition, the renovations would only hold for another 10 years or so before a steering committee would need to address issues again.

The second option involves an addition that would increase the space by 24 percent, allowing the library to move out of the basement.

The third option was to rebuild the library, fixing the deferred maintenance and energy efficiency issues long term, but actually decreasing the square footage by 33 percent. This was not considered a viable option by the committee.

The fourth option would utilize the space increase of option one, while rebuilding the library to create a more practical, efficient, and visually appealing space. Although the design would cost more, the price tag is less than that of the plans from 2011. It also has the lowest long-term energy costs.

The committee decided this was the best and most practical option, rather than rehabilitating the current building. Librarian Lara Keenan explained, “We decided that we need one more round of feedback from the architects related to option four before we make an official recommendation to the Selectboard and the Library Trustees.” Now that the committee knows rebuilding is a possibility, it wants to explore more choices within the new parameters.

The plans are in the earliest stages to rebuild the library to be a bigger, better, and more efficient space. Furthermore, the committee hopes that by moving the library out of the Town Hall basement, that space can be used by other groups. The committee members passed a motion to “use the remaining credit with Maclay to assess the cost of renovating the existing Town Hall basement for basic, unplanned use – including the addition of an elevator and investigating possible cost savings measures with designs in option four.” The committee will take their plans to the Board of Trustees and the Selectboard within the next few months.

The Steering Committee plans to fund the vast majority of the project through private fundraising efforts. Once they receive further input from Maclay and have approached the Library Board of Trustees and the Selectboard, they will consider asking voters to approve a bond to pay for a portion of the project. Colangelo explained, “If private fundraisers see the town is also helping to support the project, they will likely be more invested.” The Selectboard has established the Pierson Library Building Fund for the purpose of fundraising, and is already accepting donations at the Town Hall.

If you’re interested in making a donation, drop off a check with Town Clerk Colleen Haag at Town Hall between the hours of 8:30am and 5pm, Monday through Friday.