Trustees check out plans

Guilderland library may double in size

GUILDERLAND — The library trustees unanimously supported plans to renovate the Guilderland Public Library and nearly double its size. The cost could range from $11 million to $12 million.

Architect Frank Craine of Peter Gisolfi Associates presented the plans  — which include such features as a rooftop garden and geothermal wells — to an enthusiastic board Tuesday night.

“We are definitely designing a green building,” said Craine.

The project would bring the library’s total square footage to about 46,500, up from the current 26,500 square feet.  The brick and metal one-story library was built on Western Avenue in 1995; the library’s assistant director described it as “bursting at the seams.”

The architects worked for the last seven months with a long-range planning committee chaired by Robert Ganz. They have also met with staff members to assess needs.

“It will be our job to figure out how to sell it to the community,” Ganz told the board on Tuesday. A series of dialogues will be scheduled to gauge public support, he said.

The library’s director, Barbara Nichols Randall, told The Enterprise this week, “We haven’t set a timetable beyond saying we would hope to begin something in the next three to five years.” State funding could cover half the costs, Randall said, and the hope is to get grants beyond that to lessen the tax burden. (See related library budget story.)

The architect estimated the building, once approved, would take 1 5 to 18 months to complete.

Most of the added space would be in a two-and-a-half-story addition on property to the east of the current building, which the library purchased in recent years.

The architects had to work around steep slopes and wet conditions. “The shape would take on more of the vernacular — gabled roofs with dormers,” said Craine.

“The building wraps around and embraces the parking lot,” he said. The current parking lot will remain in place but will be added to and reconfigured. Board members raised some concerns about whether the plan includes enough parking spaces.

Craine said the building itself will last “50 years plus.” As for the function, he said, “We shoot for 20 years-plus,” noting that technology and demographics change.

Renovated and expanded

The current library building will be reconfigured with what Craine described as a “market square that would be the spine of the library.”

He described this center axis as containing “the hubbub of the library” and said it would be “an active light-filled space.”

A teen library will be contained in its own space in the current building and the children’s space will be expanded. Another small meeting room will be added and the large meeting room will be enlarged.

The two-and-a-half-story addition features stairs that open to each floor and a new elevator. Both the old and new sections will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A glassed-in tech center will house computers and the addition will also feature enclosed study rooms.

The main floor will feature a traditional reading room with a sloped ceiling surrounded by a mezzanine above. And the reference librarian will have a space she can “defend,” said Craine.

The top floor will have additional study spaces and a local history resource center with the mezzanine overlooking the entire library.

Craine called the “vegetative rooftop” part of a “sustainable design.” It can be used as a “teaching tool,” he said, and the four inches of soil will reduce storm-water runoff, serve as a natural air filter and thermal insulator, and will extend the life of the roofing materials.

Another green feature would be the use of geothermal wells, which would draw from underground, where temperatures are always 55 degrees, for use heating and cooling. The “renewable energy” systems cost more to install but will pay for themselves in the long run, said Craine.

Photo voltaic panels on the roof are also a possibility, said Craine. And, he said, “Overhangs allow heat in when we want it and keep it out when we don’t.”

Board backing

All of the trustees present at Tuesday’s meeting expressed support for the plan.

“It’s big enough to encompass what we need,” said Carroll Valachovic, “without being ridiculously big.” President Brian Hartson described it as a “beautiful building and an asset to the community.”

Ganz called it “a good investment in the community’s future.” He said the plan would encourage both traditional library use and non-traditional enjoyment of cultural experiences that “reinforce the desire to explore reading.”

“When I first came to the Guilderland library,” said its director, Nichols Randall, ”the thing that attracted me was the open feeling and comfortable place. People could come and read and see their friends and gather together.”

She said the plans have the same openness and light and described them as “something that fits with our untraditional building” and “doesn’t look stuck together.”

Merry Sparano, a long-time, now retired, trustee, sitting in the gallery, asked the architects, “Where were you 15 years ago?”

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