Answers to Questions

In the interest of helping our citizens be informed voters, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Library expansion project. Please feel free to visit or call the Library (245-9095) to find out more or ask specific questions.

Is this a good time to expanding the Library?

How much will it cost?

Why do libraries cost so much?

Will that cost go up over time?

Are libraries obsolete?

Why should the town pay for a private institution?

What about operating costs?

Do we need a bigger library?

Is there really a need for the Program Center?

Why knock down the brick building?

Could we build in stages?

How does the Scranton Library compare to the Guilford Library?

Will the new Library be handicapped accessible?


Q Does it make sense to go ahead with this project during these uncertain economic times?

A There are basically three reasons why the Library has asked the Town to pursue this project now:

  • The Library is chronically overcrowded and inefficient. The longer we wait the more services and programs will be lost for the people of Madison.
  • Many experts believe that a “window of opportunity” exists - construction costs will be favorable for this project since contractors are looking for work
  • The impact on Madison homeowners’ tax bills will not begin until the 2009-10 budget year, and will be small in the first year of the project. The expanded Library will not be completed until around the beginning of 2011.

Q How much will this project cost?

A The Referendum on November 4th will ask voters to approve a maximum expenditure by the Town of $13.3 million, which represents 75% of the cost of the project. The Library has agreed to be responsible for 25% of the total cost. The Town’s portion will be provided from capital bonds, which will allow the cost to be spread out over 20 years, much like a home mortgage. The Board of Finance’s bonding advisors estimate that the cost to the typical Madison homeowner (home with market value of $568,000) will average about 25 cents a day over the 20 year life of the bonds ($92/year).

Q Why does the project cost so much?

A The building meets stringent State guidelines that require it to be adequate for the Town’s population for at least 20 years. The Scranton project will cost a little more because of plans to preserve our 108-year-old original building, and we need to demolish certain inefficient parts of that building as well as five other buildings on Library property. With their unique design and structural requirements, libraries are among the most expensive type of structures to build, even more expensive than schools.

Q Will that cost go up over time?

A The cost of repaying principal and interest is fixed and will not increase over time. The actual expenditure will vary slightly from year to year as the amount of indebtedness increases and decreases, but the cost to the average taxpayer is 25 cents a day over the 20 year life of the bonds. The Library project will be coming on stream as the peak indebtedness of the Town’s other projects - such as the Town Campus, Police Station, High School, and Rockland Preserve - is starting to decrease.

Q Are libraries becoming obsolete in the internet age?

A Nationwide, and especially here in Madison, library use is increasing dramatically. Computers have brought a whole new group of users into the library and our Library’s online services, such as e-newsletters and databases, have increased borrowing and readership. The Scranton Library’s existing computers are so popular that people are restricted to 30 minutes use. The expanded library will have more than 30 public use computers located throughout the facility.

Current studies show that library usage nationwide typically rises faster than the population being served. This is especially true in Madison, where per capita library usage is twice the average of libraries in Connecticut.

Q Why should the Town provide public funds for a building it doesn't even own?

A The Scranton Library is, by declaration of the Connecticut State legislature, Madison's designated free public library. The fact that the building is not owned by the town and the employees are not town employees is not unusual in Connecticut. Furthermore, the Town will be protected by a Public-Private Cooperation Agreement, which will stipulate that the ownership of the library premises will transfer to the Town in the unlikely event that the Library ever "goes out of the library business." The Town will appoint full voting members to the Library Board of Trustees.

Q Won't doubling the size of the building double the ongoing annual operating costs?

A No, in fact our estimates are that operating costs will increase by only 15%. There are a number of reasons for that. A major one is that the Library’s primary expense is its staff costs – and thanks to operating efficiencies that will now be possible including self-checkout, only 1 or 2 new employees will be required. In addition, more efficient heating & air conditioning, modern and natural lighting, better insulation, and “green” building techniques will greatly improve operating efficiencies.

Q Why do we need a bigger library, the one we have seems fine?

A Madison’s library does not meet State guidelines for a town of our size. The Library is overcrowded, inefficient, and does not meet ADA or safety guidelines. The children’s room was built in 1965 – for a much smaller population with far smaller expectations about library services. Quiet reading and meeting areas have disappeared to cope with a bigger collection and computers. Modern libraries are less repositories for books (although that function continues), and more about providing space for a wide variety of people activities. The 1989 addition was helpful, but not nearly large enough to meet our present and long-term future needs.

Q Aren't we just subsidizing R.J. Julia with our "Auditorium"?

A R.J. Julia has been a wonderful addition to downtown Madison and to our community. But our Program Center (which is not in any way a fixed-seat auditorium) is designed primarily to provide much needed space for library programs, meeting space for community groups, flexible space for other community events such as lectures and art exhibits, and space for library fundraisers. The Library will continue to collect fees on the few R.J. Julia events that will held at the Library each year, and the citizens of Madison will benefit by being able to hear world famous authors and newsmakers.

Q Why are we knocking down the brick building?

A The brick Hull building is in poor condition with leaky roof and basement. It is not code compliant for a library and its mechanical and plumbing systems would have to be replaced. The floors would not line up with the new building. The building is not historically important and is not on the list of historic structures. With its significant structural shortcomings, to incorporate the Hull Building in the expanded library would result in an overall increase in the cost of the project.

Q Couldn't the building be done in stages?

A The Library Board of Trustees has carefully examined this possibility, with the only separable construction “stage” possibly being the Program Center. After much study it was determined that phasing would be a more expensive choice for two reasons:  it would save only 5% of the total project in the short term, and having two construction and bonding projects means a much higher long-term cost to Madison.

Q How does the Scranton Library project compare to the new Guilford Library?

A Three years ago, Guilford voters rejected the initial proposal for a library expansion. The project was scaled back and subsequently won voter approval. In September of this year, Guilford opened its newly expanded library building, built at a cost substantially less than the proposed Madison project, but at a size substantially less than first envisioned.

  1. Guilford’s existing library was built in 1933; ours was built in 1900. Guilford expanded in 1977; we first expanded in 1965 and then built a new wing in 1989. Guilford’s newer construction was more usable and more readily adaptable to modern library services and space requirements.
  2. Unlike Madison, Guilford’s expansion required no purchase of additional land.
  3. Guilford’s project did not require any building demolition. Madison will be demolishing 6,200 square feet of the existing library building, plus 5 other structures on the property.
  4. Guilford added approximately 20,000 square feet of new space. Madison will be adding about 27,000 square feet after taking into account the space lost to demolition. Upon completion, the size of Madison’s expanded library’s finished space will be similar to that of the Guilford library.
  5. The Guilford Library already had substantial parking. Very little new parking was added. Madison will be creating 59 parking spaces where none exist today.
  6. Guilford’s expansion began in 2007. Madison’s will commence about two years later, and annual inflation factors will increase actual dollar costs for the same construction. Our construction cost estimates suggest the impact of inflation over this period is about $1.5 million.
  7. The Town of Guilford has a sizeable Community Center near the center of town, and provides a convenient alternative location for large library programs. Madison has no such facility, making our planned Program Center that much more necessary to meet our large program space needs.
  8. The new Guilford library is smaller than originally planned. One of the casualties of the Guilford voters’ initial rejection of the project was the loss of its planned basement. Not only was valuable storage and expansion space lost, but essential building mechanical systems are now located on the first floor, significantly reducing usable library services space.

Q Will the expanded Library be handicapped accessible?

A The main entrances will be handicapped accessible, as will all areas of the Library. That is a big improvement over the many deficiencies in the current building, which was built before the ADA went into place. The drive-up book drop and on-site parking will be a major improvement for the disabled, the elderly, and parents with young children.