Revamped Northford library opens

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 5:45 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — After more than a year of construction, the Edward Smith Library in the Northford section reopened Monday to a steady stream of visitors.

At the same time, officials are preparing for the Atwater Memorial Library on Foxon Road to undergo a similar expansion and renovation in the coming year.

The size of the Smith Library, which had not been expanded for more than 40 years, nearly tripled to 12,000 square feet, Library Director Robert Hull said.

The new library features a children’s section that is larger and handicapped-accessible, a community room with a kitchen and rest rooms, and wireless Internet and additional computer terminals.

“The expansion itself was needed just for the pure fact that we were so totally crammed in with the old library,” Hull said. “There wasn’t any room for growth; there was no room for programs.”

The library dates from 1956 and underwent an expansion in 1967 that brought its size to about 4,600 square feet, Hull said.

“Since 1967, it hasn’t been touched, so it’s been a long time in coming,” he said.

The library’s full collection is now available at the Old Post Road location.

The original section of the library will serve as a reading room and house nonfiction materials.

In addition, Hull said, residents will be able to use the community room outside of library hours.

“It makes this building more than just a library, but a community resource even when the library is closed,” he said.

While the Smith Library will now be open with normal hours, the Atwater Library will be open only for limited hours on Mondays and Thursdays. The Library Board will make a decision later this month about whether Atwater will remain open in March or close to get ready for construction, Hull said.

Town Manager Richard Branigan said the Atwater project is in the design stages and he is hoping that building work will start this summer.

“It should be out to bid by the middle of May, and we’re hopeful to start construction on or about July 1,” Branigan said.

The total budgeted cost for the two projects is $9.5 million, and the town is hoping to receive about $1.5 in state grants, he added.

The Atwater library is set to grow to about 12,500 square feet from its current size of 6,800 square feet, Hull said. Most of its collection will be in storage during the construction, but the large-print, DVD and audio-book collections will be available at Smith Library.

Hull said the library had many visitors Monday who explored the new facilities.

He added the library staff has been working steadily to get ready for the opening and there did not seem to be any snags on the first day.

“We’ve had lots of people coming in today — patrons have brought us food and flowers and all the well wishes, and everyone seems to be very, very happy with what they’re finding here,” he said. “We just have people wandering around the whole library saying, ‘This is so nice.’”

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