Library Lift Plan Expansion

On March 3rd the voters of Pawlet and West Pawlet will be asked to support a bond to make needed accessibility improvements to our Public Library.

Please join us on Sunday, February 9, from 2 – 4 PM at the Library to learn more about the proposed building addition to improve accessibility to the main floor year-round and make the lower level Matt Waite Room accessible for community and library public use during open and closed hours.

We also welcome you to come into the library before the meeting to view the project plans.

Building Improvements for Accessibility

In May 2019, the Library finalized its Strategic Plan 2020-2024 following 15 months of development under the guidance of a nationally recognized library consultant. The community engagement process included interviews with 13 Town and community groups and several individuals to create a plan that is rooted in the needs and aspirations of the community, while developing relationships through partnerships and collaboration.

From this process, the Library established three priorities to guide its decisions about programming, funding, staffing and facility needs:
* provide a place for people to gather for social activities and community discussions;
* offer programs and activities that bring people together and bridge community divisions;
* and, facilitate Town and community organizations in working together and sharing information and resources with each other and the community.

The strategic plan addresses facility needs, namely the improvement of access for people with physical disabilities. Currently, many people in wheelchairs and walkers find the ramp in the back of the building too steep and too long to navigate. The ramp is closed most of the winter due to ice and snow accumulation and falling ice and snow from the massive roof. In addition, many visitors with temporary or permanent mobility issues and parents with strollers and gear have difficulty negotiating the front exterior and interior stairs to reach the main floor.

In November 2019, the Library Board voted to support the lift expansion plan commissioned by the Select Board from architect Ralph Nimtz. The expansion would improve access to the main level of the Library for everyone year-round by creating a new enclosed entrance allowing visitors either to take the stairs or a lift to the main floor. It would also allow patrons to take the stairs or the lift down to use the Matt Waite Room for library events or for community functions open to the public. There is currently no access to this lower level room for people with physical disabilities, and so, by law, it cannot be booked for gatherings that are open to the public.

Community groups hold about 275 meetings or classes a year in the Library. Of these around 140 are held when the Library is closed, which presents significant security concerns. Also, the growing number of community meetings held on the main floor of the Library during library hours presents a dilemma in serving walk-in patrons since the room used for meetings also holds the non-fiction and reference collection. By making the Matt Waite Room fully accessible (including a new public restroom), the Library can securely close off the main floor when community groups need a meeting/function space during times when the library is closed; and we can offer an alternative space for meetings held during Library hours.

The Library building addition is a sizable investment for our community. In January, the Library hosted an informational meeting for grant funders, organized by the Vermont Community Development Program. Five agencies that provide state, federal and private funding attended and invited the Town to apply for funding in the Spring. We are confident after this meeting that grant funding will cover one-third to one-half of the $295,000 bond. Grant application guidelines require that the project be fully approved to be considered, in this case by ballot on March 3.

Through our strategic planning process, the Library has adopted the mission to provide a leadership role in unifying the community through shared resources and meaningful experiences for all generations. We are dedicated to serving the community, and we urge you to vote in favor of improving our public building to provide year-round community access for all. Thank you.

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