Library Opens at University Mall

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Thursday December 07, 2017

South Burlington’s library has a new home. After sorting, transporting, and organizing 40,000 books and other materials, furnishing the program space, and establishing a new computer system, the library, with the help of dedicated library and city staff and more than 50 volunteers, has settled into 7,800 sq. ft. of space across from IHOP and adjacent to Bon-Ton at the University Mall. The final stage of the move from the library space they had shared at South Burlington High School’s library since 1971, took place over a three-day period just before Thanksgiving, with the goal of opening December 7. Now as a separate entity, it will function as the South Burlington Public Library.

The Big Move

“The move went very well, in large part due to our dedicated volunteers and to the excellent problem solving skills and determination of library staff,” Library Director Jennifer Murray said. “The public is excited about the move, many have poked their heads in, asking when we will be open. Folks on social media are also posting messages of support and interest.”

The new library experience begins with colorful seating, a display of new books and the circulation desk at the library entrance. Just past the entrance readers will find themselves between the Adult Fiction and Adult Non-Fiction sections. The center aisle is reserved for Large Print and features a co-op seating unit for up to four people as well as a charging station for three. The genres expand to Young Adult and Graphic Novels, Juvenile Fiction and Non-Fiction, before transitioning to the children’s section with picture books and easy readers. DVD and Audio Book selections complete the collection.

A program room, offices, a computer station with six new computers and software, a contained children’s section, and a workspace for library staff and volunteers fills the remaining space.

The room is smaller than the 10,000 sq. ft. the community library used to occupy in the space shared with the high school library, and therefore could not accommodate the library’s complete collection of 50,000 items. A careful and varied selection was made, and the library offered the lesser-used books to the school, to the Friends of the Library book sale, and to online book sellers. Selection and de-selection of books is a constant process for a public library, Murray told city council in October. If approved, the new library proposed for the Market Street location would allow for expansion.

With the help of Coralee Holm, the city project manager for the move, the room is now adorned with new furniture, ranging from shelves, moveable walls, and standard tables and chairs, to modern pieces like a serpentine-shaped seating arrangement that is modular, to accommodate smaller, intimate seating. The furniture, mural book bins, and other décor pops with hues in green, blue, and orange—the colors found in the South Burlington city logo.

Office Environments, a South Burlington business used for city hall furniture purchases, was selected to conduct the design and purchase of furniture for the library location at the mall. Between Office Environments, other subcontractors, volunteers, and staff, the transition served more as an exciting part of history rather than as a chore, according to Holm.

“Everyone was thrilled to work on the project and many went above and beyond what we anticipated because it was a library, because it was a community resource, and because they believed that this was a good transition for us,” Holm shared.

The fit-up, including the installation of plexiglass windows in the interior, a wash basin to clean toys, a glass door at the entrance, and repairs were estimated to cost about $45,000. Payment for the project comes from the city’s general fund, and according to Holm, stayed within the range of savings realized from the reduced costs for the lease. Final costs for the fixtures and furnishing were not yet available. Those items will be funded from the City Center Reserve Fund, and will be used in the future library. Each year, the city allocates $850,000 into the fund for public facility and infrastructure within the City Center District, according to Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard.

“It’s all an investment toward a new library, so it’s all moveable. All the stuff goes with us,” Holm clarified. “I get a lot of questions about cost. The money was there [in reserve]. It’s not additional taxpayer money.”

No funds were used for the transitional space from the Blanchette Fund, an endowment established by Paul Blanchette in 1998 intended for a new freestanding library. The fund, which holds nearly $400,000, is managed by the Library Board of Trustees.

Safety Matters

All stores within the mall have a metal door that comes down after closing, but the SBCL is taking another step with the addition of a set of glass doors. This will help muffle the mall noise as well as keep young children from wandering out into the mall, and it will act as a secondary barrier to the metal door at closing.

Visitors should also note that the library does not have a public restroom. There is only a small restroom for staff use. Therefore, patrons must use facilities elsewhere in the mall.

With this in mind, the Library Board of Trustees voted on a child safety policy at its November 9 meeting, in which children under 12 must be accompanied at all times by a parent or caregiver who is at least 16 years old and able to attend to the child’s needs.

In the event an unattended child is left at the library at closing time, protocol would involve calling the caretaker, and, if unsuccessful, would lead to notifying mall security and the police department. If a child leaves the premises with law enforcement or University Mall security, a note will be left on the library door. The library will make the policy clearly available on-site.

New Market Street building proposes permanence

Due to steady growth in collections and programming, the city has contemplated a library move for some time, with a City Center location as the final goal. City Manager Kevin Dorn had been scoping out a transitional space since 2013, and when the opening at the UMall in the City Center District became available, the decisions and the move followed at an accelerated pace. Meanwhile, the school is looking at ways to mitigate the revenue loss and to leverage data on student library use to shape a new vision for their own standalone high school library.


Dorn saw the UMall location as an option that would fit the transitional need in terms of staffing, public space, and public access, and acted quickly to procure the lease. He presented the option to city council at their September 4 meeting. Councilors voted 4:1 in favor of the UMall move, and on the same night council also voted unanimously to approve a purchase and sale agreement between South Burlington City Center, LLC and the City of South Burlington to acquire property on Market Street near Rick Marcotte Central School to construct a building for a new library and city hall. That decision is contingent on a public vote in November 2018.

South Burlington entered a three-year lease with the UMall to provide enough time to receive RFPs, select a design firm, go through a public process and permitting, and lead to the eventual design and build of the new location.

Per the Library Board of Trustees’ recommendation, city council selected architectural firms Wieman Lamphere and Humphries Poli in November to draft designs. Charrettes with stakeholders will be followed by a larger public process anticipated for January.

If the public votes for a new library on the November 2018 ballot, the project will be funded using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) debt, capital improvement reserve funds, grants, donations, and future impact fees. Under TIF financing, the library would be approved at 30 percent, and city offices would qualify for 10 percent. Fundraising from the Library Board of Trustees could also offset what is needed from the city’s reserve funds.

The community will have an opportunity to provide feedback in an upcoming formal public process, but it is not too soon to share ideas. For example, council has already heard from constituents who have requested the new library be more desirable to the senior population, an idea which is now being considered.

In the meantime, check out the new library at the mall Monday through Thursday, 10-8, or Friday-Saturday, 10-5. The library is closed on Sundays. A drop-off bin is located outside near the IHOP entrance.

“We look forward to getting to know the people who walk in the mall and the shop keepers,” Murray said. With the arrival of the holiday season, the library could be given the gift of new learners, new bibliophiles and fans.

A grand opening with music, food, and activities for all ages is scheduled for a date to-be-determined in January.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent