Williamsburg Regional Library weighs possible renovation, relocation

rarriaza@vagazette.com

As community needs shift and demand outgrows space limitations, the Williamsburg Regional Library board of trustees held a special meeting March 21 to consider possible renovation plans.

The conversation was led by Greg Lukmire, northern region president for RRMM Architects, who was contracted by the board of trustees last December to perform an assessment of the Scotland Street library’s weak points and investigate how a renovation or a library relocation could address those needs.

“This is the very beginning of this process,” said Natalie Miller-Moore, chairwoman of the board. “The board of trustees is getting this information as you are getting it, so we will be considering a lot of different things.”

Lukmire explained that, while the library’s staff has done their best with the outdated facility, libraries today bear a closer resemblance to “people-centric” community centers, and a new Williamsburg city library would reflect that.

“It is clear to us that the library that you currently have has been used very well by your library staff, but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to offer new kinds of library services, monitor what’s going on and really provide the kind of environment and programs that, particularly, young people are looking for,” said Lukmire. “I think that the more you can involve the community in the use of the library, the better.”

Lukmire’s assessment suggested the library would need to require a minimum expansion of 20 percent, increasing its total footprint from less than 40,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet. That extra space would go toward an expanded children’s area, a new young-adult area and more-open study and meeting areas.

Lukmire said the largest weak points in the library’s current design come from its over-sized structural steel stacks, which restrict accessibility for handicapped patrons, an inability for staff to monitor activity throughout the library and reading areas that are too separated from the book collection.

An expansion project could take one of three different forms outlined by Lukmire: a second-story expansion of the current library, a plan to rebuild a larger library on the existing site or relocating the library to a larger site across the street on Armistead Avenue.

Renovating the current library would require demolishing the left wing, which was originally added during a 1986 expansion, and installing a new two-story meeting and study space.

The plan to re-build the library would add 130 new parking spaces in addition to the 88 spots it has now, an expanded lobby and children’s area, as well as a new young-adult section. It would also feature group-study rooms and maker spaces, which would give patrons interested in technology access to 3D printers and design and engineering software.

“We were able to add a lot more parking and a much bigger building all within that same space simply by re-arranging the library,” Lukmire said.

Finally, the plan for a completely new Williamsburg library would move the facility to Armistead Avenue. The state-of-the-art facility would feature decentralized help desks around the library, art exhibit and event spaces and a “community living room” atmosphere. Lukemire estimated the project would take about three years to complete.

Funding for the project would come from the city, James City County, York County and private fundraising. In its recently released proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2019, $60,000 is earmarked to “consider space needs,” according to the proposed budget. As the library board determines the size of the new library and a clear direction for the project is established, city and county officials will revisit the renovation plan and allocate the appropriate funding.

The Williamsburg Regional Library board of trustees is expected to hold its next regular meeting on March 28, where they will further discuss Lukmire’s findings.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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