After gathering public input through an online survey and a series of focus groups, it has become clear that a majority of library users want to keep the Williamsburg city library downtown, according to Williamsburg Regional Library Director Betsy Fowler.
Last August, Williamsburg Regional Library conducted a 31-question building survey, where participants were asked about how often and why they use the two public libraries on Scotland Street and Croaker Road. Survey participants also were asked to rank their satisfaction with the two facilities, and the features that they would most like to see in a new or renovated library.
The online survey was open from Aug. 5-22 and received more than 3,100 responses and almost 7,500 comments, Fowler said in a presentation to the Williamsburg Regional Library board of trustees last week.
“The purpose of the survey was to gather public feedback essentially on the Williamsburg library facility, since that was the facility that is being considered for a joint library,” she said. “It was also an opportunity to gather a lot of other information about how the building functions.”
According to survey results provided by WRL, the majority of participants identified themselves as seniors and were library card holders. Nearly 70 percent also said they reside in James City County, while almost 20 percent were from Williamsburg and 10 percent were from York.
According to Fowler, major findings from the survey included a preference for the Scotland Street building due to the proximity of downtown shopping and dining attractions. A segment of respondents that said the limited parking availability posed a major obstacle to their ability to access the facility.
The majority of survey respondents said they prefer to use the Scotland Street facility over the library in James City County due to factors including its proximity to their homes or jobs and downtown Williamsburg.
“We had 321 comments stating a strong preference for keeping the library in its current location from residents of all three jurisdictions,” Fowler said. “There were very many comments about the importance of its proximity to Merchants Square, Colonial Williamsburg and William and Mary.”
When asked to rate their satisfaction with the Scotland Street building, the three most popular responses had to do with its proximity to downtown Williamsburg and the building’s accessibility, according to survey results provided by WRL. Despite the outpouring of support for keeping the library where it is, however, some survey participants also suggested other possible locations.
“There were also several comments suggesting that a new library could be in New Town, or off of (Route) 199 or near Centerville Road or Route 5,” Fowler said.
Throughout the course of the survey, the regional library system also received a number of comments about the 88-space parking lot the library shares with the nearby Stryker Center and Williamsburg Police Station, according to Fowler. 328 participants said that the limited parking prevented them from visiting the library as easily as they would like.
“The lack of parking has an impact on many people’s use of this library,” she said. “Approximately 53 percent said that parking was not an issue for them, but another 47 percent said it did impact their use of the library, and that’s a problem particularly for seniors and people with mobility issues.”
Greg Lukmire, northern region president for RRMM Lukmire Architects, is expected to lead an in-depth review of survey and focus group findings with the WRL board of trustees at its meeting on Oct. 24.
The board will also share its survey findings with Williamsburg and James City County leaders. As WRL continues to review space and feature needs for a new library, Fowler hopes to finalize its recommendations to both localities by next spring, when both localities will consider funding requests for their next operating budgets.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.