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 is considering potential new locations for the library; at the same time, we are developing new designs for renovating and expanding the current building.
A committee has been formed to identify new potential sites for the library and evaluate them alongside the library’s current location. 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 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 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 second floor accessible, it will not address the multitude of additional accessibility issues such as narrow aisles, too high/low shelving, inaccessible restrooms and limited parking. There is also a lack of appropriate meeting/study/work spaces and inadequate and precarious storage.
I really don’t use the library. Aren’t libraries irrelevant and outdated? No one reads print books anymore.
This is a common misperception. Use of our library has continued to grow every year, both in the number of people attending programs and people checking out books. Some people do prefer to check out ebooks from us, but print books are by far the most heavily used – 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 to be informed and entertained! Your neighbors use the library to get their young kids 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.
Why are you debating extensive renovations and a big new building?
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 matierials. 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 – much smaller than similar communities like Marcellus and Cazenovia.
I thought that this was decided two years ago? Why are we still talking about this?
The Skaneateles Library Association Board of Trustees understands and shares the community’s love of the current building. We take this decision very seriously and are taking the necessary time to learn from prior approaches, conduct research and evaluate options because we are entrusted with the long-term future of this vital community resource.
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. These challenges cannot ALL be solved by a redesign of the current building – including parking, accessibility and simply the size of the building and parcel of land – but they can be improved. There are numerous tradeoffs to either renovating or building new.
What will happen to the current library building if you move?
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.
In the event the library relocates, the building will continue to be occupied by the Barrow Art Gallery. Additional community and library uses that complement the Barrow have been explored in order to determine the economic viability of keeping the current historic building and maintaining its ambiance. For example, year round sales of used books and the addition of a local not-for-profit tenant would help maintain or increase foot traffic and keep the building open to the public, providing downtown district and community benefits. A combination of such uses is projected to cover costs associated with retaining the property.
You voted to retain the current building. Does that mean the library is definitely moving?
No. The board has not made a decision as to whether to relocate or renovate the current space. In either situation the future of the current building is important to the board and to the community. That is why the board felt it was important to maintain ownership of the property regardless of the outcome of the vote slated for the end of the year.
What criteria are you using to evaluate new sites? What sites have you looked at?
A list of the full criteria is available here.
What will happen to the Barrow?
The library board of trustees also serves as the board for the Barrow Art Gallery, although the library and Barrow are separate non-profit organizations with separate finances. As such, we are fully committed to both entities as we move through the decision-making process. Of course, the needs of an art gallery are different from those of a library.
The Barrow Art Gallery, like the library, has been operating under significant space and accessibility constraints that limit display, work and storage space. This makes preserving and showcasing the collection, attracting visitors and growing revenue challenging (the gallery receives no public funding and is primarily sustained through fundraising).
The board truly believes that the gallery is a “hidden gem” and is committed to working with the Barrow to ensure it flourishes well into the future by providing for needs like environmentally appropriate storage and an accessible street entrance directly into the gallery. Whether the library resides at its current location or relocates, the Barrow’s needs will be considered.
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 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. We’re incredibly grateful to Peter and Elsa Soderberg for their generous offer, and we’re still working to find the best solution for the future of the library.
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.
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, library website, social media and local news media (Skaneateles Press-Observer). 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.
What is the most economical way to obtain the additional space the library clearly needs – renovation or new construction?
The board of trustees is continuing to research initial construction costs, as well as interim and long term operational costs. All costs – both for renovation and a new building – are being used in our decision-making process and are still under review.
No renovation scenario developed to date meets all identified needs, yet it will likely be less expensive to build. There are interim costs and concerns such as where and to what capacity we can locate library operations during renovation. We’re also taking into consideration the impact of an 18-month major construction project on our neighbors in the downtown business district and traffic on State and Genesee Streets.
Conversely, it’s anticipated that the costs to build a new structure would be higher initially, but operating a building designed for efficiencies in staffing, energy use and maximum flexibility will be lower than those associated with a renovation and addition at our current site.
Costs developed at this stage using conceptual plans are projected estimates only; they are not final and can be expected to change as the scope and direction of the project evolves. These estimated costs are a tool for the board to use in our deliberation and must be weighed against how well the community’s current and future needs can be met in each scenario.
How will you fund renovations or a new building?
Regardless of whether the board of trustees votes to renovate the current building or pursue new construction, funds will need to be raised. 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.
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 for either option – renovating the current building or moving to a new location. Even if we didn’t make any changes to the building, 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.
Public funding has been a game changer for the library and the community. It not only allowed us to keep our doors open, but made it possible for the library to better meet user needs through expanded hours, services/programs and collections. The library currently supplements public funding with fundraising and income from investments to cover its annual operating budget.
Who is on the site committee? Can members of the community join?
The committee to evaluate the current site and potential new locations for the library is made up of select board members and library staff. The committee may choose to ask community members to join this effort once some initial research and discussion has been completed.
For now, we encourage community members to share any positive ideas to help us create the best future for a long-lasting asset in our community library by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.