Library board approves $8M design concept for updated and expanded building

Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair
Architect Paul K. Mays discusses an expansion and improvement plan with the Guilderland Library Board on Oct. 11. The board unanimously approved the concept, created over the past year-and-a-half. The public will vote on the project on May 21, 2019. Mays’s Ballston Spa firm, Butler Rowland & Mays, has worked on master plans, renovations, additions, and new construction projects for at least 30 libraries in the region.

GUILDERLAND — After a year-and-a-half of gathering and working with public feedback, the Guilderland Public Library board ​voted ​unanimously last Thursday night to accept, in concept, a ​plan​ developed by architect Paul K. Mays to update the 26-year-old library building and expand it by about a quarter of its size.

Voters will decide on the project in May 2019, on the same day as the school and library budget votes. The current estimate sets the cost of the project at $8 million.

In June 2012, a $13 million project that would have updated the library and nearly doubled its size was ​defeated​, 3 to 1, by about a quarter of Guilderland’s 22,000 registered voters. The project failed after a last-minute challenge and robo-call campaign by Republicans, who falsely claimed that the library board had been less than transparent presenting its plans to the public and called the plan an unnecessary luxury.

Each aspect of the current plan is estimated conservatively, Mays told the library board on Oct. 11; the plan builds in a cushion of $800,000 to allow for inflation, further development of the concept, and contingencies.

Mays emphasized on Friday that these numbers are preliminary and still need to be vetted through a construction manager; many details still need to be determined between now and setting the final referendum language and amounts, he said.

The estimate also does not include the cost of hiring the construction manager, who will be brought in soon to help estimate costs more precisely, provide advice and help fine-tune the plan, and begin to come up with more definitive numbers.

The $8 million estimates the project cost, Mays told The Enterprise on Friday, but not necessarily the referendum amount, since that number may well be offset by other sources, including fundraising, grants, legislators’ member items, and capital reserves.

Library trustees asked Mays if he could tell voters, yet, how much per $1,000 of assessed value they would be paying in property taxes if the proposition passes. Mays said those numbers will be arrived at in the next few weeks. Library Director Timothy Wiles told The Enterprise on Friday that it costs money to generate tax estimates, and that it was necessary to vote on whether to proceed, before spending the money to come up with those numbers.

If the Guilderland School District’s $43 million capital project had passed on Oct. 16, Mays had told the board, costs could be saved by hiring the same construction manager to handle both the school and the library projects. (School Superintendent Marie Wiles is married to the library's director, Timothy Wiles.) However, the capital project was defeated on Tuesday. (See related story.)

Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners ​created a stir​ over the school-project vote when he held a press conference on Oct. 4 outside Guilderland High School, accusing district officials of scheduling the vote for Oct. 16 rather than on Election Day in order to reduce the number of voters. In fact, the school district had been told by the Albany County Board of Elections to hold the vote on a different date, because to combine them would create confusion. The borders of the school district and the town are not the same.

A few highlights of the library’s $8 million plan include:
— A 6,359-square-foot addition for a new children’s room, drop-in play area, and program area for children’s and other events on the east end of the building — currently a grassy area not open to the public: The addition would be a 23-percent increase over the current building’s 27,380 square feet;
— A café near the entrance, which probably would be leased to a local business to run, and could also be the site of a permanent book-sale area;
— ​Expansion of space for other collections, freed up by the move of the children’s area, and expansion of the collections themselves. Space for adults will grow by 27 percent, and the collection by 11 percent. The young-adult space will grow by 103 percent, and the collection by 38 percent. Within the addition, the children’s collection space will be 38-percent larger, and the collection itself will be 8-percent bigger;
— Multi-use spaces: Bookshelves in the main room would be lower than they are now, allowing for better sight lines throughout the space; the shelves would also be on locking wheels, and could be pushed out of the way to create a very large open space, if one is needed for a special event. One new meeting room could be divided into five or six study areas; and
— Reconfigured parking: A new overflow parking lot to the east would add 57 new parking spaces. Lanes in the current parking lot would be reconfigured to slow traffic and make room for a walking path from the center of the parking lot would allow easier access for people with handicaps. The book drop would be moved closer to the front door, since its current location at the entrance creates a bottleneck. The parking lot would have more benches and trees. There may be a plaza in front of the building, with outdoor tables and chairs.

The library sought input from town residents in a number of different ways, Wiles said on Friday. This included three or four public meetings where residents were invited to come in to
 talk about their priorities and their perspectives on what could make the library better. Residents responded to surveys on paper and online.
The library also invited 15 or 20 different groups — including retirees, daycare providers, and teenagers — to come and share their thoughts, Wiles said. Employees shared their ideas at departmental staff meetings. At two open meetings, Mays collated and interpreted feedback. Altogether, the library received over 2,000 responses, Mays told the board Thursday night.

Mays’s Ballston Spa firm, Butler Rowland & Mays, has worked on master plans, renovations, additions, and new construction projects for at least 30 libraries in the region, he said.

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