City applies for grant to fund library renovations

Christine Angeli, director of the Milford Public Library, isn’t holding her breath for a state grant that would help the city fund library renovations: There’s not much funding available, and there are other contenders for the state money.

But she told the aldermen at their August meeting that the city may as well apply and see what happens.

“We’ll put our application in and see what we can get,” Angeli told the aldermen. “I don’t think there will be money in the future, so this might be our last chance to get some state funds for construction.”

The library board already has plans drawn up for renovations, which is primarily a redistribution of space within the library.

Reclaiming office and other space on the lower level would double the amount of space in the children’s department and make it ADA compliant. Today, a virtual cavern of space just beyond the children’s library is used for office space and storage, and with changes that have taken place since the library was built in 1976, that kind of space just isn’t needed anymore.

The current children's department is 2,000 square feet, and by expanding into the office and storage space, as well as reclaiming some space now used for technical services and deliveries, another 2,000 square feet would be added.

The library has expanded its programming in recent years, and children’s story hours alone attract 50 to 60 people.

“And that’s a great time to make a connection with families,” Angeli said.

But when the story is over, there isn’t enough room for families and children to sit and browse through the books.

“We don’t have the space for children to lounge and read for an hour, and I think that’s really important,” Angeli said.

There also isn’t enough room for children in wheelchairs to move down the book aisles conveniently.

Creating more space would also allow the staff to create different areas for children of different ages.

Similar changes would be made upstairs in the adult department, where office and storage rooms and other behind-the-scenes space would be reclaimed to create two small meeting rooms, “something that patrons have been requesting on almost a daily basis,” Angeli said.

Business people sometimes request space to meet, and students sometimes want a room where they can study together, Angeli added.

“There’s a lot of space in the library that’s not public space,” she said.

There is $1.7 million in state funds available in state library construction funds.

Of that, 80% is for libraries looking at major or vital construction, and the rest is for cities like Milford looking to fund additions or renovations to their libraries.

So that’s only $340,000 in total funds, which other municipalities have applied for. Milford is hoping to get $245,000 — it’s a matching grant so the library would have to come up with another $245,000 from the city or private sources. Angeli said some could come from money earmarked for roof and other improvements, if there are funds left over in that account.

The total cost is expected to be $450,000 to $500,000.

The grant “is going to be extremely competitive,” Angeli said.

If the city doesn’t get the money, the work isn’t something that has to be done immediately. However, expanding space isn’t a new idea, and it’s something library officials believe will really benefit library patrons.

A study done in the year 2000 study suggested similar changes.

State Rep. Kim Rose, who attended the Board of Aldermen’s meeting, said she was in favor of the city seeking the grant and said she will work with the other legislators to support the city’s bid for the funds.

Alderman Frank Smith also spoke up, saying there are limited funds at this difficult state budget time, encouraging the city to apply for them.

The aldermen voted unanimously to apply for the grant.