By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford Public Library is re-launching a capital campaign to fund a much-needed expansion.
Karen Hovis, the vice president of the library’s board of directors, said that officials have spent the last few months making decisions about how to revise the original plans for a $2.2 million expansion so that the immediate needs of the community are being met. She estimates that the library will now need about $1.2 million for the initial phase of the project.
Newark, Del.-based Nowland Associates has been retained to do the design and construction work on the project. The landscape designs are also being revised so that they are in compliance with all of Oxford’s Borough’s regulations. Once these revised plans are approved by Oxford Borough Council, the project can move forward in earnest.
“Then we can plan to put the shovel in the ground,” Hovis said.
The library, which was founded in 1784 and is the third-oldest in Pennsylvania, has dealt with steep cuts in state and county funding in recent years to reinvent itself as a 21st century library. Today, the library is an integral part of the community—a place where people can use computers, attend an enrichment class, take part in a book club and, of course, borrow books, magazines, CDs or DVDs.
The library also offers a wide variety of programs, ranging from Music and Me classes to mother-and-daughter book clubs to ESL lessons to Story Time programs. It is a meeting place for the Junior Master Gardener Club and the Lego Club. Book-signings by local authors are frequently held. In addition to a calendar full of regular events, the library also hosts special activities, such as an adult reading program that allowed participants to post brief descriptions of the books that they are reading on a board so that others could quickly learn about the books.
Hovis credited library director Carey Bresler with planning diverse activities for the community.
“She has some really good programs going on,” Hovis said.
The library has become so busy that more space is necessary to adequately serve the community. Consequently, an expansion of the library has been in the planning stages for more than 10 years. Long before the first capital campaign was started in 2011, the library purchased a lot adjacent to the building to allow for an expansion.
Library officials want to complete the expansion project in two phases. Phase one includes the construction of a new, multi-use wing to the building that will increase the library’s size by about 4,000 square feet. There will be a new entrance that will link the existing building to the new construction. Phase one also includes the work associated with relocating the children’s library from the lower level to the upper level so that it will better connect with the new wing. The parking area will also be expanded.
The main focus of phase two of the project will be renovating the existing building. The lower level of the building will eventually be utilized as a space for community functions.
“Anything that happens in the existing space,” said Hovis, “will be a part of phase two of the project.”
Hovis said that the community has always been supportive of the library, which is one reason why officials are optimistic as the capital campaign is re-launched. Several new members of the library board have been welcomed in the last year. One of the most important objectives for the revamped library board is to keep everyone informed about the library’s activities, including the planned expansion project.
“Our goal,” said Hovis, “is to do a much better job of communicating with the community. We’re really hoping that people will come forward and help us.”
Hovis said that the revisions to the expansion plans were made to keep the focus only on what impacts the patrons who utilize the library. In the initial $2.2 million plans, the building was going to be a “green” building with environmentally friendly amenities that are costly—especially for a library that has limited resources to work with.
“We gave up the geo-thermal building and we gave up the green roof because we felt that those things really don’t add to what we do for the community,” Hovis said. “What this community needs is a place to use computers. It’s also very much a social place. Some people use it as an office and a home-away-from-home. People need space, they need computers, and they need a good space to do their work. Nowland Associates is working on a new design for the building and they are trying to keep this as cost-effective as possible for us.”
Hovis said that by trimming about $1 million from the phase one plans, the hope is that the fundraising campaign will be successful enough to allow for phase two of the project to come soon after phase one is completed.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” she said.