May 9, 2021

Why Seekonk Needs a New Library: Now!

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“I am for a new library, just not now” is a comment frequently heard. It reminds me of my Mother when she didn’t want to say “no” and would say instead: “we’ll see”; but as kids, we knew what that meant. The fact is: we do need a new library, and we need one now. Here are a few reasons why.

Anyone in the building trades appreciates that building costs are not going down any time soon – do they ever? The cost of steel for example has increased over 40%. The longer we wait, the more it will cost.

Another good reason for “why now” is that the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) awarded Seekonk a construction grant of $7.3M towards the new library. This is 37% of the overall cost of $19.6M – which includes all expenses, including tearing down the existing building. It is our money to lose. And while construction costs may go up, the grant award is fixed. Building now means the state money covers a greater share of the overall cost. Plus, the state grant cycle is decades in time, not years. This is a once in a generation opportunity. If we turn this grant money down, it could be a long time before we have the opportunity for state funding again. The last time Seekonk participated in the grant cycle was in 2000.

The existing library is in need of major repairs and renovations. Our town’s DPW team has assessed over $2M required – as a start. The HVAC system is past end of life and is not COVID compliant. This winter, the library closed for a time because there was no heat. Ironically, when the library also had to close because of COVID-19, patrons thought it was just another problem with the building.

A leaky roof has caused walls to crumble. The electrical and mechanical systems are outdated. An unstable foundation has caused the outside shingles to splinter, windows and doors to shift and leak and roof-based drainage problems. We need a new library now because throwing good money after bad just doesn’t make sense.

Repairs may strap the building together for a few more years, but we need a new library now because this one no longer meets the needs of the community. The library collections are not fully accessible. The children’s room doesn’t accommodate story time or other children’s programming. There is no teen space for collections or programming, or places for quiet conversations, group study, meetings. Lack of space constrains access to and the introduction of new technology, resources for seniors, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Our library is the heart of our community. It is one of the most widely used services in town. Every dollar of town tax invested in our library brings a return of $4.42. This is great value for just 1.75% of our total town taxes.

COVID-19 highlighted how important our library is to Seekonk. It is one place in town welcoming to all. But the too small, deteriorating building constrains the greater good that the library could bring to taxpayers. Imagine the impact that could come from a new library designed to meet today’s programs and services and those of tomorrow.

We need a new library now because quite simply the existing one is falling apart, and the square footage no longer accommodates the library programs and services that the town demands. There isn’t space to build out, and the structural issues don’t support going up.

Our town continues to grow. Libraries evolve. They aren’t just a warehouse of books anymore. The modern library is a resource and a community center for everyone. Libraries have always been and will continue to be a unique and essential part of the American story. We need to make sure our town has a library that meets the needs of taxpayers today and helps those growing up to meet the challenges of their future.

For the price of a cup of coffee – we can say “LibrarYES !”, instead of “we’ll see”. Plan to go to the Town Meeting on May 10th and vote yes for the new library. Let your voice be heard.

Anne Miller
Taxpayer for a New Seekonk Public Library

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