Litchfield Public Library To Get New Building

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"We're just out of room," said Litchfield Public Library District Librarian Sara Zumwalt. "We have books sitting on top of books. We are always moving stuff around to try and make more room. But we are full."

Zumwalt said the library board started looking at other options last year.

"The city owns this building," Zumwalt said. "They have granted us use of the building to stay as long as we would like. However, it's listed on the Historic Registry so we can't build on."

She added that library usage is up 35 percent in the last few years across the board.

"We have more than 100 people in here every single day," she said. "During some of our programs, there are people on top of people, and we still only have two bathrooms."

Zumwalt and the board looked at several different properties in Litchfield, before purchasing three acres of land near the Litchfield Community Center. The board began looking at property in November, and finalized the sale of the land this February.

Once they picked a place, they had to decide what kind of plan they needed for the new library, and hired Evan Lynch Associates of Springfield to help.

Zumwalt said that firm did the last two renovation phases of the current library building, and also did work for the new Litchfield National Bank Building, so they were familiar with Litchfield.

It took the board four months to decide on the perfect floor plan for the new building, which includes 12,000 square-feet of space. Currently, the library has around 6,900 square feet of available space, much of which is not accessible to all patrons.

Once the library vacates its current home, the building will go back to the city, and officials will decide how best to use it.

"The big question we keep getting is people want to know how we are going to pay for it," Zumwalt said. "The library has been very fiscally responsible with your tax dollars. Through savings and donations, like bequests, we already have a substantial down payment on our new building."

From there, one of the local banks has offered them a loan, and the library will pay a monthly mortgage.

"But your taxes will not go up," Zumwalt reiterated. "There will also be no noticeable cuts to services or the amount of books we have."

In fact, the amount of books they have will go up. Zumwalt said because of space issues, the library is always having to get rid of old books, and the new space will allow them to keep more books on hand for patrons.

"Sometimes we have someone come in to ask about a series of books, and it's just hard to keep all of them right now," she said. "We just don't have any place else to put them."

The new library includes a floor plan that is all on one level. It will feature a new teen room, full of young adult books, as well as a place to study, and even a green wall, where teens can try their hand at making videos.

Another feature will be a computer lab, where Zumwalt said they will offer a variety of computer classes for patrons, like how to sell items on eBay.

They will also offer two small meeting rooms for tutoring, study sessions or music lessons, as well as a genealogy and a large public meeting room, which will seat up to 100. Patrons may also rent the large meeting room for birthday parties or other events.

Zumwalt is especially excited that the children's library will have its own wing, and will be easier for parents to navigate. The new library will also feature an outdoor patio, and Zumwalt hopes to be able to offer free movie nights in the park again.

"The benefits of this new building so outweigh the negatives," Zumwalt said. "Patrons who come to the library are really excited about the new building."

To help answer questions about the move, the library board is hosting an open house on Tuesday, July 12, from 3 to 7 p.m., where renderings of the new library will be on display, and board members will be on hand to discuss the new building.

"We want people to come and see what we mean when we say it's too crowded here," Zumwalt said.

They will also host a public forum on Thursday, July 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Litchfield Community Center. Anyone may submit questions that will be answered by board members that night, following a brief presentation on the project.

"It's just gonna be great," Zumwalt said.

They hope to break ground for the new building in October.

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