SOUTHINGTON – A political action committee has formed to inform voters about the benefits of the new proposed library building which is going to referendum this November.
Voters will be asked whether they support an ordinance appropriating $16,900,000 for the construction of a new library building at 255 Main St., and the demolition of the old building. The new library building would include a larger children’s area, more meeting rooms and quiet study areas and it would bring the space up to modern building codes.
The “Vote Yes for a New Southington Public Library” political action committee, “The Marcus Holcomb Society” has been formed to coordinate marketing activity related to passing the referendum. Joanne Kelleher is serving as chair, with Barbara Roberts and Brian Williams serving as treasurer and deputy treasurer respectively.
Kelleher explained that, under state election laws, library staff and town employees can provide information about the project, including what happens if people vote yes or no, but they cannot as part of their job try to influence how people vote. Additionally, the Friends of the Southington Public Library, a non-profit organization, can only spend a small portion of their income, which was limited due to covid-19 closures, on “vote yes” lobbying activities or they could risk losing their non-profit status.
“To protect the Friends of the Library's non-profit status and to separate from the work of the library staff, this Vote Yes committee was formed,” said Kelleher. “We were fortunate to find an existing, active PAC, the ‘Marcus Holcomb Society,’ named after a former governor from Southington, which saved us some of the logistical work of setting up a tax ID and bank account.”
Library Director Kristi Sadowski said that the Marcus Holcomb Society is a “great, motivated group.”
“The group is made up of many board members and other people who were active in developing the proposed plans,” she said. “They are very knowledgeable about the needs of the community and what the proposed project offers.”
Kelleher said that Tappe Architects, the architects for the project, have made some adjustments since the proposal was initially presented to the public in Jan. 2020. However, the project priorities remain the same.
Priorities for the new building include expanded space for children and teens with more space for parents to sit and shelving that is more accessible for children. The proposal also includes meeting and workspaces for individuals and groups with more acoustic separation from children’s spaces. There will also be a new parking lot with a centralized entrance. The new building would also be brought up to modern accessibility standards and would have more efficient electrical and HVAC systems.
“The meeting spaces are designed to be right off of main entrance along with bathrooms so if there’s a program during off-hours we could close off and lock the main library and still be able to use these areas,” said Kelleher.
Kelleher said that local historian Walter Grover found articles about when the current building was constructed in the 1970s. He discovered through his research that the existing building was supposed to be “phase one” of the library’s construction. A “phase two” addition was recommended but never built. The library has been seeking to expand ever since.
"I hope everyone shows up to vote and votes yes,” said Kelleher. “It's long overdue.”
Kelleher said that while some believe that “people don’t read books anymore”, statistics show otherwise. In addition, she said that the “library of the future” means more than just books. In addition to digital resources, the library also offers meeting spaces and a place for parents to bring their young children for learning experiences.
The Southington Public Library website has been updated with information about the building project, including the plans, costs and a list of FAQ.
A series of “Vote Yes” committee meetings will be held in the basement of the Southington Historical Society at 239 Main St. at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16, Sept. 30, Oct. 14 and Oct. 28.
“Anyone interested in helping get the referendum passed is welcome to attend these meetings, join the Facebook group, or reach out directly to the committee members,” said Kelleher.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.