Library hopeful for a new building, despite odds

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By Matt Miller
Williamston Post staff writer

Uncertainty hovers over the library’s future as the community lacks knowledge of how to go further, yet a new home is needed and progress is slow.

“I kind of don’t see it happening,” said Rebecca Langham, who works as a library assistant, and suggested that groups have been fundraising for almost 10 years.

Williamston library lost its home a few years ago when the it was decided that its current building was unfit. Langham described the older building as run down and inappropriate.

After the library moved out of its old building, the building was hit by a tornado. The current building at 201 School St. houses the community center and senior center as well, yet this building is too small and cannot even meet the library’s needs.

The new building the library is in houses the community center and senior center as well. There are a few services in Williamston that require a new home, including the library, food bank and senior center. There is a chance these buildings would be grouped together in a community center.

Marlene Epley used to serve as director of The Williamston Community Library Foundation. Epley said that the new building was not large enough to house as the services that a library should. Epley said for example, “There’s no room to meet in Williamston.”

However, the current head of the Williamston Library Foundation refused to comment on the current situation of the library or the foundation. Head Librarian Julie Chrisinske is disappointed with the current state of affairs for the library. She said for the size of the community in Williamston, the library cannot house enough services for its information needs. She said, “We’re bursting at the seams.”

Chrisinske works in a small side office that also serves as storage for the library.
Chrisinske also said the library cannot offer enough space for people to gather and have a pleasant experience. She said “The collection is way too small, the seating is abysmal, there is a spot for two people to sit out there…there is not a place for people to sit with their children and read a book or play a game.”

Chrisinske said, “I believe there are people who live here who don’t even come here.”

Langham agreed, saying that the library’s biggest loss was square footage. Now she says, the library has 2,000 fewer less than it did in the old building and that the current building is also limited.

However, there are advantages to the current location, says Langham. She says it is easy to access this location and having the community center, senior center and library together creates a community hub for Williamston.

However, work has been put into building a new library. According to Epley, the Library Foundation purchased a new location for a new building and an architect has drawn up a conceptual map. The location is called the waterfront location.
Epley said that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been put into this project already. She said that at one point, plans seemed to be going very well, but that was before the recession.

Noah Belanger, Williamston mayor pro-tem said that designs had been drawn up. However, these designs only included the library and not the other buildings the community needs. According to City Councilmen Scott Vanallsburg, the city would prefer to keep the building as both the library and the senior center.

Belanger liked the idea of the waterfront location. He said that in the near future, this location could be easy to access, is beautiful and was close to town.

The biggest issue for a new building is funding. Chrisinske said, “It’s an investment in the community that really wasn’t saved for.” Belanger said the city is currently looking at the figures for building the community center, which would include the library. City manager, Alan Dolley also said that cost was the biggest complication.

Dolley said that there were many options for the building. Dolley said that one possibility could be to sell the building to a developer and use that money to build at a new location.

City Councilmen Kent Hall said that it was almost impossible to move forward because they had little knowledge of what this would cost
Hall described the situation as, “you might want to have a limo come and pick you up every morning, but you can’t afford it.” He said that it was difficult to ask the community what it wanted before they truly knew how much an operation would cost, whether renovating the old building or building a new one.

Hall said that even though he believes that the old building works well, he could not say anything for sure until more facts became available.

Other complications include whether to group together Williamston’s needs. These included homes for an community center, senior center and food bank
Hall said that it did not matter whether the buildings were kept separate or together as long as there was funding.

Despite the confusion, plans may be beginning to move forward. According to Vanallsburg, there are plans to survey the community about options at different prices for this project. However, according to Kent, there really is no idea of what any option would cost at this time.

Dolley said that the city council had agreed to send out a survey to the community, and work is being done to word the survey properly. Dolley said there was a concern that might the survey toward a new building.

Chrisinske said the next few years she will be spending time with outreach. She said, “Almost every library around us has been renovated.” Chrisinske said that most people just do not know what the library could offer the

WCLF AERIAL PERSP (p18)_101013-2
-A conceptual rendering of what the new library could look like.

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