PLAINFIELD — Officials are working on expanding the Cutler Memorial Library for the first time since the 1940s.
Loona Brogan, Cutler’s librarian, said the plan is to more than double the square footage of the library and to double the amount of parking spaces from eight to 16. There’s an apartment above the library and Brogan said the expansion includes plans for a second apartment to help bring in funds for the library’s budget.
Because the library sits in the town’s designated historic district the building has to look pretty close to how it looks now. So Brogan said the plan is to expand behind the building towards the Winooski River. She said she’s currently waiting to hear back from an engineer who is checking to see if the ground behind the building will support the expansion because it will be close to the riverbank. The building was moved to its current spot in 1937 and a small addition was added on in the 1940s.
The main goal of the project is to create more space in the library.
“We’re not able to serve kids and families well at all because we don’t have enough space. … We don’t serve anyone with mobility problems well enough,” she said.
With the new space, Brogan said the bookshelves will be mobile so they can be moved out of the way when space is needed. She said there will also be a community space that people can reserve even when the library is closed by using a key code to gain access.
She said the project doesn’t have a cost estimate at the moment because its still in the planning phase, but the engineers have been told to design the project around $450,000. Brogan said the plan is to fund half of the project with state grants and the other half will come from fundraising.
There’s no timeline for the project yet because she said it will depend on how quickly those funds will be raised which may take up to five years. Brogan said the library may also break the project into multiple smaller projects, or phases, so some parts of it can be completed before all of the funding comes in. She said the building is owned by the library, which is a nonprofit, so there may be some financing involved if it comes to that. But Brogran said she’s not sure if she wants to saddle the library with debt.
She said expanding the library is important because it’s meant to be a space for the community to use.
“We know what people are really craving and what we’re going to need more and more as a society are places where people can just hang out. It’s not just certain groups of people, it’s all kinds of people. … They co-mingle, they get to know each other a little bit. Sometimes they wind up being friends when they maybe never would have otherwise crossed paths,” she said.
Brogan said today it’s easy to feel polarized in society and one of the most important things public libraries do is bring people together.