Library gets grant to expand, create more public space

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

But in November Angeli learned the Milford library had been awarded a state library board grant for $212,750, and this week the Board of Aldermen voted to advance the money. As soon as the state turns over the grant money, the city will be refunded.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Angeli said, “very happy to get it.”

The state grant is a matching grant so the library will have to come up with another $212,750 from the city or private sources. Finance Director Peter Erodici said the city is considering using $200,000 from the rest of the Public Library Roof and Facilities Upgrade funding. Once that is confirmed, Angeli said she will see where other funds can be secured, possibly from the library’s passport office, which generates funds for the library.

She said there isn’t any rush: The library has a year to begin spending the funds, and right now upstairs restrooms are being overhauled with Community Development Block Grant funds to be ADA compliant. Also, the library is beginning a strategic planning process, and Angeli said she will focus on those two projects first.

So it’s still too early to say when renovations will begin.

Renovations will be primarily aimed at redistributing space within the library, turning office and storage space into space the public can use.

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, Angeli explained as she was applying for the grant.

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.

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

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.