BERLIN – Cramped shelves, narrow aisles and limited floor space are just a few of the things librarians are looking forward to leaving behind when the new Berlin branch is built.
Construction documents for the Worcester County Library’s Berlin facility were completed this month and the project is set to go to bid in January.
“We anticipate breaking ground next spring,” said Jennifer Ranck, director of the Worcester County Library.
While patrons of the Berlin branch like the hometown feel of the tiny building, they’re looking forward to having access to a facility that meets modern standards. The new library, which will be built on Harrison Avenue next to the Waystead Inn, will be 11,500 square feet — or more than triple the size of the existing building.
Ranck says the increased space will allow for a variety of improvements. The existing library, which was built in 1970 on land owned by the Berlin Fire Company, sees about 1,200 visitors a week. It has just one restroom and no community meeting rooms. Shelves are squeezed together and can barely accommodate wheelchairs.
The new library will have multiple restrooms and will meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines with 42 inches between shelves.
“It’ll make it easier for people to get between the stacks,” she said.
The larger building will also provide designated space for the library’s various departments. Currently, the children’s section and teen area are cramped into one side of the Berlin library while adult fiction and nonfiction share space with a tiny seating area on the other side. The new library will feature an expanded children’s area with additional early learning computers.
“In the children’s area, we’re working on creating an interactive space,” Ranck said. “We want children who come in to associate the library with fun.”
Teenagers will have a space of their own in what’s already being called “The Loft” on the second floor of the new building.
“They like to have their own space,” Ranck said.
The second floor will also house a large meeting room that will be used for library programs as well as by community groups. The space will mean library staff will no longer have to go scrambling next door for extra chairs when a popular program is scheduled.
“Some of our programs we have 100 people attend,” Ranck said, adding that in the past the library had even had to move programs outside to accommodate attendees. “It can be difficult.”
Once it starts in the spring, construction of the new facility is expected to take 14 months. While Worcester County and the Town of Berlin have contributed financially to the project, the library is eligible to receive up to 50 percent of construction costs from the state. The library received a fiscal year 2016 grant of $1,083,000 and a fiscal year 2017 grant of $704,000 and has applied for a final grant of $1,019,000.
To help with costs, the Worcester County Library is also hosting a Bricks to Books fundraising campaign and is working on raising money for a matching grant from the Humphreys Foundation. The foundation has pledged to match each dollar donated to the project up to $100,000.
“We’ve raised 20 percent of that so far,” Ranck said, adding that the deadline for that grant was May 2017.
Ranck is pleased with the amount of community support and interest the project has received so far and is looking forward to construction of the long-awaited new building. The “high performance” facility was designed to be cost-effective and energy efficient.
“We anticipate this building will serve the community for decades to come,” Ranck said.
For more information on the project visit www.worcesterlibrary.org.