The South Hero Community Library 5 year Strategic Plan (2014 – 2019), which was formulated through broad community input in 2014, calls for considering the possibility of establishing a library separate from Folsom school. The library is over capacity for housing our collection, let alone adding to it, and is severely lacking in space for effective programming, teaching, and community outreach. A new facility would expand access and resources for teenagers, homeschool students, senior citizens, mentors, tutors and more. We could offer better services to a wider demographic were we to have an alternate and larger location.
Funding a New Library
The issues involved in creating a standalone library are many; first and foremost is funding. The goal of the Library Trustees is to have minimal impact to the taxpayers of South Hero. The library trustees intend to raise, through a capital campaign, privately donated funds to minimize to the greatest extent possible any municipal spending. (Learn more about the capital campaign here.)
There is currently a library steering committee exploring possibilities for capital fundraising as well as the size, scope, cost, and potential locations of a public library. The steering committee is comprised of an enthusiastic and energetic group of 13 community members who have meet on a regular basis. The group is studying possible locations, fundraising, and building design and is learning about other library success stories statewide. One potential model is the Bent Northrop Memorial Library in Fairfield, which undertook a nearly identical project, and their total building budget was $738,000.
Community Space vs. Student Space
We have spent many months gathering data to help determine what direction the town sees its library taking in the future and how we may respond responsibly to those challenges. The reality of our situation is that the changes in the needs and ideologies of public schools and public libraries have changed tremendously over the 40+ years that the library has been inside the school, and our space is increasingly fraught with problems and inadequacies.
In 2014, the Folsom School Board identified the placement of the library as a security threat to the school and prioritized taking measures to ensure the highest level of protection possible for the students of Folsom. The library Board of Trustees was asked by the school board to reconfigure the library space, for an estimated cost of between $50,000-$100,000. As an alternative, the library could consider changing the hours of operation so that members of the public will not be able to use the library during school hours.
Given the cost of the changes and the need for action during the 2015 school year, it was decided that the library would need to move forward with changing the hours, despite negative ramifications on the library’s availability to the public. As a result, the library had to eliminate toddler programming and story hour, and new barriers emerged for senior citizens who might not wish to visit the library after 4pm, particularly in the winter months.
As you can see, there are several compelling reasons for South Hero to have a stand alone public library, separate from the school. The time has come to explore what the options and possibilities are. We will continue to report on our progress, and we welcome any input or feedback you may have.