Plans to significantly reorganize the interior of the Woodside town library shifted into second gear on Tuesday, Sept. 28, after a unanimous Town Council, with some caution, gave architects the go-ahead to spend about $200,000 to prepare construction documents for a project estimated to cost around $2.3 million.
In a presentation to the council, architect Dawn Merkes, a principal of South San Francisco-based Group 4 Architecture Research and Planning, said that the library's layout is configured for people picking up items. Fifty-six percent of the 90,000 visitors in 2009 were there to check items out, according to a Group 4 survey.
The project goal is to make it a destination library through changes that encourage visits longer than the typical 20 minutes shown by the survey.
Among those changes: relocating the self-checkout area, creating a study room and separate areas for kids and teens, and designing a more welcoming bookstore-like appearance. The changes would be environmentally oriented, but without the official stamp of the U.S. Green Building Council, a savings in documentation costs of about $46,000, Ms. Merkes said.
The library has many visitors but not much social interaction among them, according to the survey. The new less compartmentalized layout would be expected to encourage more exploration.
The proposed new features include easier access to the patio, a book-hold area that will not need staff participation to pick up an item, a less intimidating information desk, a living room-like area, and glass enclosed rooms for teens and quiet study.
Construction would begin in late spring or early summer of 2011 and end about six months later, Ms. Merkes said. While the library is closed, options for Woodside residents would include possible visits by a bookmobile and/or visits to the libraries in Atherton and Portola Valley. Ideally, children's story time could relocate to a temporary home in town.
All project funding is coming from a restricted reserve of about $2.1 million in Woodside library property tax revenues. The libraries in Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton are unusual among the 12 member libraries of the San Mateo County Library Joint Powers Authority in that they accumulate more in revenues than they spend each year, said Greg Bodin, assistant director of the county library.
Although Woodside's library will spend about $125,000 on maintenance this year, the reserve grows by about $300,000 annually so the balance should be around $2.3 million by June 30, 2011, Assistant Town Manager Kevin Bryant told the council.
Mayor Dave Burow wondered whether the county government, which is facing a significant structural deficit, might try to redirect some of these funds. "Everybody's trying to grab everybody else's money," he said. "This is the sport of the day."
The collection of revenues for libraries is specified in an agreement among JPA members: the county and 11 cities and towns, Town Manager Susan George said. To amend that agreement with respect to distribution of revenues would require the approval of a two-thirds majority of JPA members, a scenario Ms. George said would be unlikely.
The Menlo Park Library is independent of this JPA, but like all public libraries in the county, belongs to the Peninsula Library System and shares books through inter-library loans.
The overall goals of the redesign include flexibility as needs change and economical and sustainable operation. The physical footprint of the library will not change significantly and is "very adequate" for the size of the community, the architects said.
The new bathrooms will comply with federal law on accessibility for the disabled.
The plan included solar panels for the roof, but that has been scrubbed as being not cost-effective.
The council is likely to revisit the proposal around February. "It looks like a great project," Councilman Ron Romines said.
Go to this link to view the proposal. The plans include comments and suggestions from the Woodside community.