Q. Why do we need a larger Library?
A. Because the current building, at only 3,739 square feet, is far too small to be able to support the high standard of service the Library has consistently provided and to meet the diverse and ever- changing needs and interests of our residents.
Since the Library moved into its current building on Ramsdell Lane 45 years ago, Barrington’s population has quadrupled from approximately 2,000 residents to about 9,000 today. The rate of the Town’s population growth is more than twice that of the state as a whole and the NH Department of Energy and Planning expects it to reach over 10,600 by 2025. Many of the materials in new formats and equipment (videos, DVDs, computers, copiers and the like) that are now squeezed into the building weren’t even conceived of when the Library moved to the current location.
Most important, there isn’t enough people space to offer a welcoming, comfortable experience. Per-person space standards and the findings of the professionally developed Needs Assessment and Building Plan recommended a building of 17,000 square feet based on Barrington’s population. The Library Trustees, Staff and Building Committee, however, looked to the future and identified how the Library will provide services, programming and access to literature and information in the years ahead. (Information once contained in rows of encyclopedias, for example, will be increasingly available digitally or online). They were able to trim the size to 12,300 square feet. There will also be a 3,500 square-foot basement to be used by the Library for mechanical equipment and storage.
Q. There are libraries in the schools and in nearby towns. Why don’t we just use those?
A. There are several reasons school libraries are unsuitable and prohibitive as public libraries. School libraries have different functions and the books and materials they have are limited to younger people. They are not open as often as the Barrington Library and, most significant, the general public is not allowed in.
Barrington residents can indeed use other local libraries. For a price. A nonresident library card at Dover Public Library costs $200 a year ($150 for seniors); $60 at Rochester’s library; and $75 at Durham (free if you work in Durham). There is no charge for a library card for Barrington residents.
Q. Who will benefit from this new Library?
A. Virtually everyone. The new Library will be a central place that fosters cultural awareness, personal intellectual discovery and social interaction. Where young children are introduced to the joy of reading. Where older kids develop lifelong skills to succeed in school, their future careers, and in life. Where business people can access a host of software programs and data. Where adults can borrow the book they’ve been wanting to read (in-hand or downloaded), participate in a cultural activity or hands-on, how-to class, to get up and out of the house to read the paper or a magazine, and to meet friends over a cup of coffee in a friendly, everyone’s-welcome place. It’s also worth noting that the Library serves the needs of the Early Childhood Learning Center next door. Their young students come to the Library daily for literacy time.
In addition, last year, for example, the Library sponsored 562 programs. Residents of all ages visited the Library 46,301 times, and borrowed over 85,000 books and varied items. The Library staff will continue to go the extra mile to offer an extraordinary range of additional, helpful services from technical instruction for the digitally challenged, tax forms and boating licenses… to help with job applications or tracking down special book requests. The new Library also will benefit the town as a whole by providing a valuable asset that will make Barrington more appealing as a great place to live and work, by increasing the value of our homes − and as a hub of citizen interaction to encourage a stronger sense of community.
In addition to the personal enrichment the town Library offers to residents, it is also cost effective and provides substantial financial value to the community. A tally of the items and assistance provided in 2017 – including items available to borrow (books, DVDs, music, games, etc), programs for all ages, hours of computer and wi-fi use, and thousands of questions answered − showed a total monetary value of $1,173,121. The cost to taxpayers to support the Library in 2017 was $300,918. That’s a savings of nearly $3.00 for every $1.00 of taxpayer investment!
Q. How long will this new library serve our community?
A. The new Library has been planned to meet the community’s needs for decades. A great deal of flexibility has been incorporated into the design to permit re-arrangement of the space as citizens’ needs, materials, technological and programming requirements may change over time. Moreover, the durable materials and energy-saving systems integrated into the building design will provide long-term sustainability, low environmental impact, and maximum cost containment.
Q. Why has this location been selected for the new building?
A. The Library Trustees and volunteer Building Committee invested more than 10 years investigating possible local sites, but each was either too expensive, didn’t provide enough land, or had terrain or environmental issues. Ultimately, the Ramsdell Lane property was determined to be the most suitable and practical location and the Board of Selectmen approved development of plans to build there. People are accustomed to going there. The Early Childhood Learning Center, Recreation Department gym and playing fields, and the community playground are also there. There is room on the property for other future development. And there is no cost to purchase land. The Town already owns it.
Q. How will the proposed bond, as the public portion of the project cost, affect my taxes
A. The cost to construct the new Library has been estimated by the architects to be $5,139,000 based on possible costs in 2020. While certain factors are not yet known such as the interest rate, length of the bond and when the first payment will be due, it has been estimated by the Town Treasurer that at a 3% interest rate on a 15-year bond, if the entire cost of the new Library were to be borne by tax-payers, the amount would be $148.49 annually for a $300,000 property. This is equivalent to one pizza or one movie ticket with a beverage once a month. However, with the generous support of the community to help achieve our private $500,000 fundraising goal, the amount on a $300,000 property will drop to $134.04…or the equivalent of one large coffee a week at Aroma Joe’s.
Q. How will the larger Library affect operating costs in the future?
A. We don’t know at this time whether or by how much certain expenses beyond our control (utilities, health insurance, etc.) may rise in the years ahead. At a total of 15,800 square feet (including the basement) the new building will be about 4 times larger, but operating expenses will not rise proportionately. There will be a need to increase the hours for the custodian in the larger building. Currently, the Library staff of seven includes only 2 full-time members. It is likely there will be a need over time for additional part-time staff to serve the increased number of people visiting the Library to borrow materials, take part in the expanded programming, get instruction on how to use electronic devices, and to take advantage of the many other ways the Library supports Barrington’s residents. Operating costs, however, will be offset by the durable materials and energy-efficient systems (solar, computerized heat, air and lighting monitoring systems, for example) incorporated into the building design.
Q. Why do we need to build a larger building when libraries are going to be obsolete in the future because information can now be obtained on the internet and books are available in other formats and on electronic devices?
A. Here in Barrington and across the country, public libraries are, in fact, busier than ever. The role of our town Library is rapidly evolving, continually offering more helpful services and programs, access to the latest technology as well as to leisure reading and informational materials in an array of formats. As patrons come to the library to take part in a program, to pick up a movie, or to use a computer, they are also borrowing more printed books! There are many articles on the internet that provide compelling arguments challenging the notion that computers and various electronic devices are making libraries obsolete.
The Barrington Library has become the community’s center of personal enrichment and social interaction. Our older residents, teens and many interest groups, for instance, have no place to meet. The larger building is necessary to ensure that our Library will be able to keep pace with the community’s changing needs and interests in the decades to come.
Occasionally we also hear “I don’t use the Library because I can afford to purchase my own books so why should I support it?” or “I can get the information I need on my own computer.” But consider families with children, seniors on fixed incomes, self-employed or our many local small business owners and others who want to stretch their budgets. These are neighbors and friends who may prefer to borrow rather than buy a book or movie, read newspapers or magazines for free instead of signing up for costly subscriptions, or to save a bundle by using the computers at the Library. Others may simply want to reduce their carbon footprint; to save a few trees and limit the stuff that ends up in the land fill. The public library is the original recycling center and as it transforms, it is transforming communities! Like no other institution, our public library serves the entire community with free and equal access to all: the youngest and oldest, richest and poorest, brilliant or modest in intellect, and everyone in between.
Please contact us if you have any questions or comments about our fundraising drive. We enjoy hearing community feedback.
Barrington Library Council