CARA LORIZ PHOTO | Library Director Denise DiPaolo joined volunteers working Tuesday in the book sale room, which will be completely redesigned in an effort to increase the efficiency of the library’s existing space.
Construction will begin this fall on significant renovations to the Shelter Island Library, Jo-Ann Robotti, president of the library’s Board of Trustees, announced last week.
Funded entirely through private donations — $500,000 has already been raised toward a goal of $700,000 — the library’s 2,700-square-foot lower level will be completely redesigned. Both the meeting room and the library book sale space will be remodeled with new features and increased efficiency allowing for programming to double, said Library Director Denise DiPaolo.
By relying on fundraising, the library can “address immediate and growing needs without increasing a tax burden in a harsh economy,” Ms. Robotti said, characterizing the donation campaign as a response to issues raised by taxpayers who turned down an expansion and more extensive renovation plan in 2008. The library’s structural footprint has not changed since it was built in 1965.
“The Shelter Island Public Library is the center of this community,” said Ms. Robotti, and it is a community center that is busting at the seams.
In just three years, between 2007 and 2010, 511 new library cards were issued, an increase of 14 percent, according to Ms. DiPaolo. In the same period, the library’s collection increased 56 percent, its circulation went up 54 percent and patron visits almost tripled from 24,128 to 74,848.
Library programming, most of which is held in the lower level, is up 141 percent since 2007, with nearly double the attendance. Demand for computer use has spiraled 285 percent and “continues its upward trajectory,” noted Ms. DiPaolo.
According to Ms. DiPaolo, patrons often are unable to access materials and services in the lower level because the area is shared with community groups and organizations meeting there. Non-fiction, biography, reference, oversized books, local history, literacy and nautical collections as well as visual magnification devices and quiet reading room space all share the 1,000-square-foot lower level programming room.
Dedicated space is also needed for young adults, whose attendance at programs tripled between 2007 and 2009, Ms. Robotti noted.
The renovation will address these issues, as well as structural, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and ADA accessibility compliance concerns. Reconfiguring the lower level will improve the efficiency of the 1,500-square-foot book sale space and will allow for a dedicated programming venue, room for a functional collection reading/study areas and storage space.
The library has commissioned Luchessi Engineering, P.C., a Hicksville-based architectural firm, to plan the renovations; preliminary design work is underway. A new exit in the book sale room and new windows, walls and lighting are all part of the plan.
During renovations, library programming will continue but will be relocated.
To fund the improvements, the “125th Anniversary Lower Level Renovation Campaign” was launched last year in concert with a celebration to mark the library’s founding donation of 280 volumes by Eben Norton Horsford in 1885. Spearheaded by the library’s Development Committee and its restructured Friends of the Shelter Island Library, the campaign invites donors to give at any of six levels ranging from from $500 gifts to those over $50,000. (See shelterislandpubliclibrary.org for details).
Over 50 families have donated so far, including the Brandenstein family who have offered to pay for an elevator for easier access to the lower level. “We are grateful that so many Shelter Islanders are stepping up to support their library at a time when state budgets for libraries are being cut to 1994 levels,” said Trustee Linda Kofmehl, head of the board’s Development Committee.
The Friends, under the leadership of Sue Hine, raised over $21,000 through successful events such as the annual “Book & Author” luncheon, the newly-created “Book & Author Festival” and popular “Turkey Plunge,” tag sales and art and photography auctions and book sales.
According to both Ms. Kofmehl and Mrs. Hine, fundraising will continue through 2111 and beyond, to allow for any future expansion of the building that might be needed for the library to meet community needs.
“We are grateful for the positive response and generosity of many Shelter Islanders in support of their library — and the efforts of the staff and trustees to meet them effectively and with efficiency,” said Ms. Robotti.