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A Message From the President

Eagle News Online: https://www.eaglenewsonline.com/news/new/2019/07/10/at-the-library-3/

In an effort to better meet the community’s current and future library service needs, the Skaneateles Library Board of Trustees is continuing to evaluate which is the best path forward for the library: renovate and expand at our current location or select another site for a new library building.

The work needed to prepare us for the future has been deliberate and extensive, and we appreciate the community’s input and support as the board continues to do its due diligence as the body charged with meeting the library’s mission and vision: To inspire learning, enrich lives and connect our community and to be the cultural and informational hub of a vibrant, thriving community by creating spaces and experiences that are welcoming, enriching and sustainable

There has been a dramatic transformation in libraries over the past 20 years brought about by changes in how we work, learn and interact with our world. Today’s libraries still do what they have always done – provide books and other materials for us to share. But now we also expect our libraries to provide opportunities to learn and socialize, places to work and study and spaces to host meetings and events. As more and more tasks must be done online – from schoolwork to applying for jobs to accessing government resources – libraries have become the infrastructure that provides equal and open access to the technologies we need and the people who can help us learn to use them.

The board has determined that our building in its current state falls short of the space needed to adequately serve the shifting needs of our community. Because of extremely limited parking and drop off areas, limited space for learning and working, and lack of compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, many members of the community find our library’s programs and services inaccessible. Roughly 72% of school district residents – the people who pay the tax levy that the library depends upon – live outside the village of Skaneateles, and there are areas of our community where broadband access is unavailable or inadequate.

All residents should have access to computers for homework, research and communication. They should be able to attend story times, movies, lectures, musical performances, book groups and workshops. The board recognizes our responsibility to serve all taxpayers who support our library. More space, therefore, is essential.

Our library was dedicated – in 1890 – as a state-of-the-art facility. Limited changes over the many decades since have made the current building inadequate for the demands of 2019 and beyond. The most significant improvement in 125 years was the addition of 375 square feet of space when the Sphinx was annexed for the children’s room more than 30 years ago. Our building has not kept pace with our community’s needs, even as we have expanded services and collections to maximize every square foot of available space and our usage has continued to grow.

We now have two options to preserve this vital community resource: renovate the existing building or build a new library. The library needs flexible space designed for 21st-century services that can efficiently respond to changing technologies and user needs – not just for now, but for the next generation. The board will decide by the year’s end whether we can best serve our community at the library’s current location or at another site.

Award-winning library architects Paul Mays and Lisa Hayes are working with us to develop new designs for the current site. They have decades of expertise in libraries, in both new construction and renovations. At the same time, the board’s Site Committee has evaluated nearly 20 possible sites for a new library. These sites have been narrowed down to a few options, including the current site. Criteria used for evaluating potential spaces includes accessibility, efficiency, aesthetics and cost (a more detailed list of criteria is available on the library’s website).

If the board decides to renovate the existing building, the library will most likely have to relocate and limit its operations for a period of time during construction. The renovation would utilize the total available footprint on the current site. If the board decides to build a new library, the question of what becomes of the current building will be on our minds. The board is exploring options to retain ownership of the current building and re-purpose it to further support the community. There are many ways this venerable and classic building can continue to serve our community; your library board is exploring a number of these as we deliberate on the implications of our decisions.

I am confident that the board will ultimately make the best decision for our community and future generations of learners. The goal of this update is to assure you that the board is both deliberate and thoughtful regarding the pending decision. Community members can submit input to feedback@skanlibrary.org.