Exploring the Library's Future
The board and staff of the library appreciate the strong community support of our mission to inspire learning, enrich lives and connect our community. As we plan for the library’s future, the Skaneateles Library Board of Trustees has decided to find a new location for the library and retain the current building for community use.
Committees have been formed to identify new potential sites for the library and to plan for the current building’s short and long term needs. Community members can find the most accurate and timely information about the library’s plan for the future on this page.
Why Does the Library Need to Do Anything? – Presentation with Notes (Skaneateles Library Board Meeting, 11/12/2019)
News and Updates:
Library Selects Fennell Street for New Building (10/14/2020)
September 2020 Update – Presentation with Notes (9/21/2020)
Update from the Library Board President (9/8/2020)
Update from the Library Board President (5/16/2020)
Update from the Library Board President (3/5/2020)
Library Board Votes in Favor of Relocation (12/10/2019)
Library Board Working Toward Decision (Press-Observer, 11/7/2019)
News article on building vote (Press-Observer, 9/25/2019)
A Message from the Library Board President (6/28/2019)
Library Continues to Evaluate Options (2/1/2019)
Library Board Selects New President (2/20/2019)
Frequently Asked Questions
Why might the library need a new, larger building? Can’t you just add an elevator and/or an addition to the current one?
The library has needed additional space to fulfill its role in the community for decades. It was built in 1890 for a smaller population and at a time when libraries were used very differently than today. The existing spaces are too small, inaccessible for some patrons and inflexible to meet the needs of our 9,000 taxpaying residents. While an elevator would make the 2nd floor accessible, it will not address the multitude of additional issues such as narrow aisles, too high/low shelving, inaccessible restrooms, insufficient collection space, limited parking, lack of meeting/study/work spaces (before, during and after library hours) and inadequate and precarious storage.
We want to right-size the library to meet our community’s current and future needs in an accessible, flexible space. Use of our library has continued to grow every year, both in the number of people attending programs and people checking out all types of books and other materials. Libraries are places for people to meet, work and study – as well as places to get books to be informed and entertained!
Our library building and the collection are too small to adequately serve a community our size – for kids and adults. We are much smaller than similar communities like Marcellus and Cazenovia.
Why did you decide to move the library and keep the current building for other community uses?
The library board made the decision to move the library after very serious and extensive deliberations. We learned from prior approaches, conducted research and evaluated all options. Because we are entrusted with the long-term future of the library, we decided that the renovations required to improve the current building and the size and location of its site didn’t indicate that to be in the best overall interest of the community.
The current library space continues to face significant challenges, magnified by growth in attendance at our programs, the number of items and services available and general use over the last few years. Many of these challenges could not ALL be solved by a redesign of the current building – including parking, accessibility and simply the size of the building and parcel of land, although they can be improved. The numerous trade-offs, in the short and long term, associated with either renovating or building new were carefully considered.
Are my taxes going to go up because of an expansion to the library?
The library will launch a capital campaign to raise private funds and various grants for moving to a new location. Just like for the school district, there’s a difference in a capital project’s costs and in the costs to run the library’s operations. Because the library’s needs for additional space are significant, designing and building that space for maximum operational efficiencies is important to contain future costs.
An increase in public funding will likely be requested at some point in the future as the library’s operational costs for things like personnel, utilities and collections get more expensive over time. This is true regardless of where the library is located. Public funding, first provided in 2016, has been a game changer for the library, allowing for expanded hours, services/programs and collections. The library currently supplements public funding with fundraising and income from investments to cover its annual operating budget.
How will you fund a new building?
We will seek grant funding through various foundations and government agencies, but expect that the majority of funds will need to come from a broad spectrum of small, medium and large private donations.
What do you plan to do with the current building?
In September 2019, after careful financial analysis and deliberations, the library board passed a unanimous resolution to retain ownership of the current building regardless of whether the library renovates or relocates. After the library moves to a new site, the building will continue to be occupied by the Barrow Art Gallery. Additional community and library uses that complement the Barrow are being explored to ensure the economic viability of keeping the current historic building and its ambiance. For example, year around sales of used books and the addition of a not-for-profit tenant, who will maintain or increase foot traffic to the building, would provide downtown and community benefits. A combination of such uses is projected to cover costs to retain and maintain the property.
What will happen to the Barrow Art Gallery?
As the library board of trustees is also the board for the Barrow Art Gallery, we are fully committed to a successful future for both entities. Yet, the Gallery is its own nonprofit entity with its own needs.
Like the library, the Gallery has been operating under significant space and accessibility constraints that limit display, work and storage space. This makes expanding hours of operation, offering programs and growing revenue challenging. Unlike the library, the Gallery receives no public funding.
The Barrow is also in need of its own accessible street entrance. Having the opportunity to expand into space currently occupied by the library with its period-appropriate architecture is a lower cost way for the Gallery to gain space and grow programs and revenue. The board truly believes the Gallery is a “hidden gem” and is committed to seeing it flourish well into the future.
I haven’t heard anything about these plans. Why aren’t you telling the public what’s going on?
The library board values timely information sharing through multiple communication channels, including: in-person meetings, community meetings, monthly board meetings, the library website, social media and local news media (Skaneateles Press). Community members are encouraged to visit the library’s website to view the latest developments. The board continues to try to be transparent, open, community-oriented and financially responsible throughout this process. Anyone is welcome to contact our board president, trustees and/or the library director. We really appreciate your input.
What about renovating the old Austin Arena?
We’ve looked at approximately 18 sites in and around the village. Sites that are close to centers of activity (e.g., schools, downtown including the Fennell Street corridor, the YMCA and Austin Park) while offering easy access by all of the school district’s 9,000 residents are at the top of our list.
What criteria are you using to evaluate new sites? What sites have you looked at?
A list of the full criteria is available here. See also questions above.
I think it’s great what you’re doing. The library needs to expand to keep up with current and future needs. How can I help?
We would love to have your input and help! There are many ways to assist. Please contact us at 315-685-5135 and ask for library director Nickie Marquis. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really don’t use the library. Aren’t libraries irrelevant and outdated? No one reads print books anymore.
This is a common misconception. Use of our library has continued to grow every year, both in the number of people attending programs and people checking out books and many other items. Some people do prefer to check out ebooks from us, but print books are by far the most heavily used. This is true for all ages, but especially for kids and teens.
Libraries have evolved to be places for people to meet, work, study and engage – as well as places to get books, movies, documentaries and more. Your neighbors use the library to help their young children become academically and socially ready for kindergarten. Seniors visit for social interaction and to continue learning. Your friends want to use library spaces and amenities to attend meetings/events and to meet with others.
We also help people learn to access and navigate the digital world. You personally may not use the library, but your community does. And given all the changes that have occurred at the library in the last few years, you may not be aware of all the free digital access and services your library provides. The library serves as an equalizer in an era where digital access is increasingly necessary for all ages and socioeconomic groups; it can also be a great place for people from all walks of life to interact.
The library is a resource for all of us, just like the school district. You may not have kids in school, but it’s a benefit to all of us to have a strong school system. The same is true for the library. If it’s been a while since you’ve checked us out, we hope you’ll stop by or visit our website. We’re always adding new resources!
What is the most economical way to obtain the additional space the library clearly needs?
The board of trustees has researched and continues to update both initial construction costs as well long term operational costs. Both of those types of costs and what they would yield were reviewed for all the options considered to better meet the library’s mission. The extent of renovations needed at the current building was a factor in the board’s decision to move the library. Interim issues (such as where to locate the library during renovation and impact on surrounding areas) as well as long term issues (such as operational inefficiencies and impact on the Barrow Art Gallery) were also factors.
Initial analysis indicates that the long term costs to operate a new structure (designed for efficiencies such as staff line of sight, energy efficiency, maximum flexibility, etc.) will be lower than those associated with a significantly expanded building at our current site. The current building does need improvements in access, and these can be achieved more economically without competing with the space needs of a library.
Through our analysis, the board of trustees of the library association ultimately determined that using the current building for other community uses and building a new library was the best option to ensure the library’s long term financial viability and relevance in the community it serves.
What happened with the Stella Maris opportunity?
The board decided in May of 2017 that the combination of legal costs from a planned lawsuit opposing a public structure at the former Stella Maris site and the drawn out struggle it was intended to generate were not in the library’s or community’s best interests. While the board of trustees didn’t have enough time to gather all the information needed to decide if the Stella Maris site would have ultimately worked for us, we felt it was best to move on.
Has the library considered Andy Ramsgard’s design ideas to address concerns and keep the library right where it is?
Mr. Ramsgard’s plans are attractive, but do not take the library’s needs assessment into consideration, nor do these designs provide for the uses our community has asked for in a library. The library continues to work with professional library architects who have extensive, specialized experience with renovations and new construction of libraries, as well as American Library Association recommendations and best practices.