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Temple Would Support $2.1 Million Library

That money, along with $900,000 the library was bequeathed, could be put toward Oxford's new library on Great Oak Road.

 

Oxford First Selectman George Temple says he would support a $2.1 million allocation to construct a 10,000-square-foot library on Great Oak Road.

Temple said that would be added to some $900,000 that the town has from the estate for the late Miriam Strong, a lifelong Oxford resident who donated much of her $3.5 million estate to the town.

“What I said is that I could support a $3 million library and think the town would support it,” Temple said, adding that he would name it after Strong, a longtime Inland Wetlands member who was heavily involved in the community. “I think that price would be a reality. If you go in with the Taj Majal, it’s not going to happen.”

Last month, Oxford allocated $4,200 to town engineering firm Nafis and Young to look at the feasibility of constructing a new library on town-owned property on Great Oak Road. Oxford has been discussing a new library for more than 30 years. The current 3,000-square-foot library on the first floor of Town Hall was considered too small for the size of the community in 1978; the town, the fastest growing in Connecticut, has gone significantly since then. Town officials at the time had said the library would be housee at Town Hall for just five years.

Oxford Public Library Director Dawn Higginson has told Patch that the library ran out of space several years ago.

Many committees have been formed to explore options for a new library. Plans for a new facility have failed at referendums. In 2000, a plan for a new library and senior center failed by 47 votes.

A new senior center was eventually built, and now library supporters believe the time is right to construct a new facility and fulfill the town’s promise from several years ago.

A current new library construction committee had recommended a 20,000-square-foot library for $5 million. Temple said he believes that is too large and too expensive.

“There are some people on the committee who wanted 20,000-square-feet, I’m going to be up front about that,” he said. “But apparently the architects think this would be a perfect size and it would be tripling the size of the current facility.”

He envisions a homey atmosphere in the new library with a children’s area downstairs, and a comfortable adult section upstairs with a fireplace. He said electronics, such as E-Readers, would be included in the new facility.

He believes the library could be a place where parents wait for children to get of school nearby, pick them up and then walk to a nearby playscape that is currently being constructed. He also has plans for a children’s garden in between the two areas and walking paths that lead to protected wetlands where educational programs could be held.

“I think this is the type of place that would fit well into the character of Oxford,” he said.

The new library committee is still working on plans with its architect. Temple hopes to see the new plans soon and said he would recommend the project soon thereafter.

Per the town charter, this project does not need to go to a referendum, since it is less than 10 percent of the tax levy of the town. Last year’s tax levy was about $3.1 million. Whether town officials will choose to send it to referendum remains to be seen.

Would you support allocating $2.1 million toward a new library in town? 

Charlene December 05, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Could the Oxford House be converted into a library - similar to the Newtown library? It has so much character, and it is in a great location.
Dorothy DeBisschop December 05, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Unfortunately, the Oxford House is so close to Little River that there are lots of water and wetlands issues with the site, as well as issues with the construction itself. Libraries have to be designed to hold more weight than most buildings because of the weight of the book stacks. Hopefully the Oxford House will find a new owner who will be able to make a go of the restaurant business, and Oxford will have a new library that will be affordable today and expandable in the future.
Thomas December 05, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I think this is a great idea. It leverages existing history and architecture and solves a problem at the same time. Barring any issues - it might work. On another note, the town needs to fully understand the massive shifts which are underway with information, publishing and media. It's not like it was when we were kids. In the past five years, technology has flipped the paradigm upside-down. Nowadays, students walk around with all of their textbooks on iPads, they never look into an encyclopedia (they use wikipedia), and most of the new deliverables from a library (movies and music) can be found on Netflix/Amazon/Comcast or many inexpensive online music services. There are MANY great things about a library — but many of the basic infrastructures are going away . . . quickly. A great benchmark is to look at the OHS library, the Southbury library, and possibly another equally-sized town's library. Instead of asking if they're busy (they will tell you they are) - spend a few days and collect information about how many people REALLY go there and what they do and use. But don't get statistics from architects, builders, or librarians - unfortunately they have agendas.
Peter Bunzl December 05, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I believe Oxford deserves a new library. I've never given much thought about the issues that Thomas raises in his comments. But they are thought provoking. While planning for a new library his comments should be taken into serious consideration.
Bob December 05, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Libraries are obsolete. They are going the way of cursive hand writing. Unless they change. If they have a system of loaning out electronic books then they don't need the building to handle the mass from the books. A more state of the art building or using the Oxford House would be appropriate. Think. Think. Think. A 2 year old is using an e reader these days. Soon there will be no more physical text books in schools. Some schools are already converting to e readers. Money might be better spent building an electronic library.
Will Wilkin December 05, 2012 at 02:38 PM
As someone who grew up loving books and libraries, I hate to admit Bob might be right. I have a hundred books on my Kindle, mostly downloaded for free. Real books with real pages will never disappear, they will always have their advantages and appeal, but I agree with Bob that digital formats are revolutionizing publishing, reading, and information access in general. There will always be a need for public libraries as essential to making information and a decent reading environment available to all citizens. A secondary function of library buildings has been to provide meeting rooms available for various purposes, meetings, discussion groups, presentations, etc. That is something that should be available in any town, basically a meeting room that members of the public can borrow for a few hours as needed. That needn't be at the library but it has to be somewhere, perhaps at Town Hall. Libraries are ingrained in our history and culture, and, for us oldish-timers, our personal experience. It seems radical to call them obsolete, though I confess the internet and Amazon.com have largely replaced the library for me. But as money becomes more scarce in this historic crumbling of the American economy, libraries may actually become revived to some extent, simply because private literature costs will be harder for some people to bear. Thus any library, whether existing and renovated, or built anew, should have as much forward-looking design as traditional design.
Pam December 05, 2012 at 05:45 PM
If you go to Southbury, the library is always busy. A library is a good community meeting space and ours is not big enough. It would be nice to have a library/community center that serves a duel purpose with meeting rooms for civic groups and youth programs. The Oxford Library Staff has done a tremendous job working within very narrow constrains of budget and space and I look forward to seeing what they can accomplish with more adequate facilities. I would certainly support this project.
Carole C. December 05, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Oxford has not "received" $900,000 from Miriam Strong's estate to date, and that figure might be a little off, unless the Town of Oxford merged their bequest with the Oxford Public Library's bequest.
Dawn Higginson December 05, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I agree that the traditional viewpoints of libraries as merely places where books are kept and librarians as “keepers of the book” are obsolete. However, printed books are currently one format that we still use extensively to help connect people with stories and information. The Oxford Library annual statistics for circulation of print materials for the past ten years is as follows: 2012: 43,495; 2011: 40,288; 2010: 42,592; 2009: 40,334; 2008: 38,294; 2007: 39,056; 2006: 39,518; 2005: 37,778; 2004: 38,727; 2003: 32,536; 2002: 32,856. The Connecticut state average of print materials circulated per capita has increased from 8.0 per capita in 2002 to 9.5 per capita in 2012. Far from being obsolete, the use of print materials in libraries in Connecticut is continuing to grow every year.
Dawn Higginson December 05, 2012 at 09:52 PM
My experience with e-readers and online reference materials usage by people leads me to this conclusion-digital is just another format that libraries provide access to so that people can seek information. Every day people come into our space and ask for assistance in locating information online and in print. As people transitioned from clay cuneiform tablets to paper when it was the newest thing, as people transitioned from records to cassettes to 8-tracks to CDs and now to digital files for music, as people used 16mm filmstrips and then VHS and Betamax tapes followed by DVDs and Blu-ray discs for movies, the library always stood and will continue to stand in the future as the community meeting place where experts help people locate stories, information, music and movies in any format. The need for people to come together in a place where they can locate information and use it collectively will not change.
Dawn Higginson December 05, 2012 at 09:52 PM
. The need for information specialists to help guide people to the best available materials they need will not change so drastically that information specialists will become obsolete. Far from it-we are needed to help wade through the explosion of information available in all its formats now more than ever. I whole-heartedly agree that libraries need to exist today in the digital world as much as in the physical one. We are working to add additional digital resources to our services we already provide. We currently offer downloadable audiobooks and ebook access online through our website (Overdrive). We also offer physical Kindle e-readers to borrow to read books digitally. We have been working this Fall to create a mobile app for Oxford Library which should be released soon for everyone to access our services through their mobile devices.
Dawn Higginson December 05, 2012 at 09:54 PM
I most certainly do have an agenda in giving you all these statistics-to show you that the need in Oxford for a lifelong learning center is valid, and will continue to be valid long after I am gone. Let me leave you with this snapshot example of typical challenges we face in our current space from this past week: Monday, the library had a scheduled open craft program from 3-6pm for children preschool age through sixth grade on our one craft table set up. It was surrounded at 4:45pm by 6 kids and their parents, with no room for more to participate. We had a scheduled all-ages knitting program overflowing in the storytime corner, next to the coloring table we shove into the children’s collection aisle every time we do a program in the storytime area. There, 6 kids and 8 adults participated enthusiastically while sharing knowledge and skill levels from beginners to advanced knitters from 4:30pm-5:30pm.At the same moment, the table in the adult area was occupied by a nursing student studying for this semester’s college final exams while a mom and child were struggling to create enough focus to do homework together amongst the hullaballou. Adults were coming into the library after work to find materials to read for themselves or for their children, with no easy access to any of the stacks of books because they were blocked by other people doing the same or by overflow furniture we moved.
Dawn Higginson December 05, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Each one of our four computers for public access was full of adults and teens looking up materials, checking emails, etc. We had two children vying to use our children’s game computer. Some adults turned around and left when they saw how overrun we were, and returned at a later time or date to be helped. The above comments represent my personal views and do not in any way represent the views of the town, Library Board or Building Committee.
JYD December 05, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I find it remarkable that the current library has done so much with so little for so many years. Everyone associated in the past and currently deserves the gratitude and thanks for all they've done. I think the time is definitely right for this initiative.
Ed Rowland December 06, 2012 at 12:15 AM
When I was attending Center School in the 60s and early 70's the library was part of the Old Center Firehouse which had been the original Center School.Two rooms filled from floor to ceiling with books.When new Town Hall opened with the new library in the basement I never thought the Town would ever need a new Library.Here we are in 2012 and the need is greater than ever.I feel this is the right time to move forward with this project. And namimg the library afterMs.Strong is fitting.Thankyou and Merry Christmas to everyone.
sue December 06, 2012 at 12:18 AM
The people of Oxford deserve a functional library. Programs for children and teens are very important to keep them in an educational atmosphere. Even though I have a Kindle Fire where I get books for free, they are not new books. I order my books which are new editions from my library. I am an avid reader of an average of 2 books a week, mostly from the library along with books not so new such as biographies, garden books, cookbooks, etc. Every town needs a public library to use and children and teens need not sit home in a room by themselves with an ebook. They should be interacting with their peers at the library. Sue D'Agostino
Janis Hardy December 06, 2012 at 03:56 PM
People often mention the Southbury Library, but I have always thought that something similar to Seymour's Public Library would be useful in Oxford. My recollection of the state granting process requires towns that apply for state funding to plan and build a library of suitable size to meet the town's needs for the next 20 years. While this 'requirement' might be the thing that George sees as exceeding the town's budgeting ability, we should consider that all the required space does not need to be filled with books or media, it can be meeting rooms, study spaces and rooms for other kinds of uses. Seymour's library has/had several meeting rooms downstairs with the media on the upper level, which they had to expand several years ago. But the meeting rooms were always available in the evenings for community organizations that needed them. Our Town Hall is always short for space these days, something that meeting space in a new library would solve. Anyway I remember that 2000 referendum well since it was during my last term as Selectman. A very disappointing loss at the time!
Me December 06, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Are grants even realistic anymore from the state? $400M+ fiscal deficit this year, $170M in cuts, and the rest looking of the debt looking to be financed on a loan. With on the horizon next fiscal year's budget deficit expecting to be twice as as large. I do not know all the particulars on getting grants, how they processed, or if they have relation to the state budget. But if are intertwined what kind if confidence level can one have on getting a grant? And thinking out loud here, wouldn't assurance (or great confidence) have to had before spending too much money & time in design before having to change it because the potential funding source falls out?

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