Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your recent coverage of Blackstone Library’s proposed renovation project. We were very pleased to present an update on the project at the September 13 RTM.

The library went through the strategic planning process in 2012. Over 500 community members provided input via focus groups and online surveys. Several issues about the functionality of the library building came out of those surveys, including the location of the children’s area, lack of teen space, a greater need for technology and meeting space, and the unwelcoming and awkward rear entryway. In 2013, the library engaged Arbonies King Vlock to conduct an architectural review in which the town government and members of the public were invited to participate in a series of workshops held over the summer. Public input was used to inform the design that was ultimately approved by the library. The initial conceptual designs were displayed in the library and presentations were made to the public and town government. Once the RTM approved funding to proceed with the schematic phase of design last year, a building committee--composed of representatives appointed by the town and library board--selected Silver Petrucelli & Associates to further refine the design. The public was kept informed via regular reports at public board meetings. The schematic design approved by the building committee has been displayed in the library and on our website for over a year and has been presented at public meetings including the Board of Finance and Town Center Revitalization and Review Board. The public was invited to five information sessions at the library in May & June of this year, via a town-wide mailing.

Inadequate parking is an issue that the library is acutely aware of. The library board has followed the progress of the Town’s Main Street Gateway project and fully supported it since its inception. The plan allows for additional parking spots adjacent to the library property. The board of trustees also commissioned an independent parking study in 2012 to address the issue. The study concluded that the best option would be expanded street parking. The board of trustees has consciously avoided altering the library grounds, which have historic and horticultural significance.

The Blackstone Library was established as a public library with a charter from the State of CT Legislature in 1893. It is one of 75 out of 178 public libraries in the State that operate as an association library with municipal funding. We are deeply grateful to the nearly 500 donors, Friends of the Library and Branford Community Foundation, who have supported the renovation project through campaign contributions. We welcome all input from the community.

Sincerely,

Karen Jensen

Library Director

(12) comments

Steve Mazzacane Staff
Steve Mazzacane

Karen,

I will gladly publish your letter. However, it still does not answer why true public hearings were not held to determine need, not only what they may be, but if they existed at all. Other projects held countless public hearings, not focus groups or questionnaires with leading questions, to get community input. The Senior Center and Walsh were needs as the community led the charge, with seniors and parents calling for new facilities for years. The facilities were so lacking they could not perform key functions, such as senior access and teaching.

A survey asking for library supporters to share what they would like to see does not make it a need. As an example, one could easily ask the public today what they would like to see at the firehouse and there would be a list, despite it being built very recently. But the replies would not make them actual town needs, and there is little chance the town would move forward with them. This list of "needs" would be manufactured, not an organic cry from the community, representing a real need.

I appreciate your position, as head of any department one would fight for that department. 500 donors is certainly commendable; it’s good to know so many want to see what you have proposed. However, it remains a "want." Your use of statistics on use of the library is evidence that the essential function of a library is not at risk, like it was with the Senior Center and Walsh, and like it remains with other needs, which include upgrades at Sliney and a public works facility.

Support or not for this project does not indicate support, or lack of support, for the Blackstone in general. BranfordSeven has posted countless press releases on your behalf, and continue to support it as we can. Should elected officials choose to support it, congratulations. Our job is to ensure the public is well aware of what is taking place, how their tax dollars are being used, and that the process is as open as possible.

As suggested in the article, it would be nice to see real numbers on the project without the addition. In your own words, your surveys and focus groups found that the rear entrance was “unwelcoming and awkward.” Some may agree or disagree, but an awkward secondary entrance to a building would hardly qualify as an urgent need requiring tax dollars. This is key, as the addition is the main driver of the cost.

You also mention meeting space. As you know, the town has spent millions on two projects, the firehouse and new community center, that adds significant meeting space for residents. The question taxpayers must ask is if more meeting space is truly a town need at this time. I would submit you would find it is not a town need.

The article posted is our analysis. One can disagree, and we allow differing opinions on our sites. Over 100 residents have commented, raising significant concerns.

Again, I request a project estimate that moves forward moving the children’s wing, perhaps uses what would have been the new meeting rooms as a young adult area, and adds computers, and leaves out the new addition. After hearing from many, an option of that nature would help taxpayers see some upgrades to the Blackstone without an undue burden on the tax rate.

To that end, we would encourage all who would like to see upgrades to the Blackstone to donate to their cause. Our analysis looks at only what is being requested of the taxpayers as a whole, not if the plan is worthy of personal donations.

Guest

Really $3 million dollars in tax payer money to beautify the rear entrance to the library, give me a break. And the parking. Lets face it there will never be enough parking. What we need is a new public works building so the men and women who keep the infrastructure of the town rolling have the facility to maintain the equipment they use everyday. Enough for now

Guest

I am a Branford resident and was not informed of anything until recently, so the "mailings" must have got tossed with the junk mail.

Irishgirl

Not sure what is meant by "extended street parking" but it sounds like there will be no change and we will have to search for a parking place on the street as we always have done when the lot is full? At least we don't have to use parking meters as they do in New Haven! I certainly understand now wanting to turn the library grounds into a giant parking lot. It would certainly ruin the look of the area.

Guest

The parking space issue is simple. It is currently being used as a safe commuter lot. 1 hour parking limit in the prime spots and 2 hour elsewhere would help.
Pete Lombard


Guest

With the advent of Ebooks, I don't find a need to go to the physical library at all, except to renew my library card. As Amazon demonstrates brick and mortar is going the way of the Dinosaur.

Alfred C Whitehead

Actually Amazon is restructuring and going into the "brick & mortar" type of facilities big time.

Pat Santoro

This library is one of the gems of Branford and should be cherished. Brick and mortar retail is suffering but the library is not a retail outlet. It contributes value to our town in many ways,don't want to buy a book it gives you access at no cost to all types of reading material and the staff is great.The library is part of our history.

Alfred C Whitehead

It would appear that parking outweighs additional space or rear entrances. It would seems premature considering any type of renovation (external or internal) until the parking issues are addressed.

Guest

The Blackstone library is a wonderful building and provides so many valuable services to the people of the town. And while the space distribution and new computers are necessary, adding, what, 500 SF in the back is not. The town cannot afford to fund this project at this time, not with the ones in progress now and the unresolved needs of the PW dept. And all this with the state budget cuts. Sorry, but no.

Guest

Blackstone Library is wonderful and the staff there are always pleasant and helpful. What I don't understand, with all these great plans to improve the library, what is being done to increase and improve the parking situation. I can't tell you how many times I have gone there and leave because there isn't a single parking space to be had.

Guest

The parking space issue is simple. It is currently being used as a safe commuter lot. 1 hour parking limit in the prime spots and 2 hour elsewhere would help.
Pete Lombard

Welcome to the discussion.

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