New Woburn Library on Schedule, Staffing Levels Fall Short
Sep 27, 2018 10:40PM
● By Katie Lovett
WOBURN – The construction of an expansive and elaborate addition to the Woburn Public Library is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year, and the building should be ready for the public in March, library officials said this week.
The long-awaited $31.5 million renovation project began in the spring of 2017 after the library relocated to its temporary headquarters in the Cummings Center.
The historic library, built in 1879 by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, is a national landmark. It will receive a new 2.5-story wing, which will include a new, large children’s room, meeting and gallery space.
“We are the last Richardson library without an addition,” Library director Andrea Bunker said. “This was his first library, his first commission after Trinity [Church]. It’s the same shape inside; it’s a beautiful, beautiful building.”
With the addition, the library will grow to 30,000 square feet compared to the 9,000 square feet of usable space it had previously. The library also had severe accessibility issues.
A big component of the addition will allow the library to have a much larger, more usable Children’s Room. The area will also include a Story Time room and a craft room.
“It’s beautiful, it’s light-filled, it will be a wonderful space to learn and explore,” Bunker said.
The addition will also create a Teen Room and a Maker’s Space, where patrons can learn and use new technology, such as 3-D printers and laser cutters. The room will also be a space for workshops on areas such as coding. A new laptop vending machine will allow library users to scan their cards and borrow a laptop to use throughout the building for a two-hour time period.
“It really will serve all ages,” Bunker said.
The building will also offer new study rooms, a 100-seat program room, and a Historic Artifacts Room in the Richardson, featuring artifacts and historical pieces from the city.
Construction workers are also restoring the Richardson to its former splendor by repairing and refinishing walls and flooring.
The building will use RFID technology and patrons can drop their returns into an automated machine that checks the materials in immediately.
As the opening of the new building draws closer, Bunker said her staff is still struggling to meet satisfactory staffing levels while planning how to also staff three additional service areas in the new wing.
In order to remain an accredited library, the city is mandated by the Mass Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) to meet certain hours of operation, including nights and Saturdays.
Bunker said the Children’s Room will continue to be open every other Saturday due to staffing issues. Other cities with similar populations have 40-60 staffers, and Woburn has 21, but is operating with only 19 filled, Bunker said.
Positions have been frozen and the building has not been restored to full staffing levels, she added.
Mayor Scott Galvin, who chairs the library building committee, did not respond to an email seeking comment for this article.
While the need for the project has been known for decades, the project itself has also been in the planning stages for several years.
Library staff completed the grant writing process for the MBLC and the grant was approved by the City Council in 2010. However, the MBLC did not offer Woburn a provisional grant until 2014 when it was finally removed from the organization’s large wait list for funding.
In the fall of 2015, the City Council approved the $31.5 million bond.
The city and Library Trustees have also provided funding for the project. The city was also awarded a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund. Fundraising for the fixtures, furniture and equipment – not included in the original bond – is also underway.
Once the construction is completed, any punch-list items will be taken care of (work that doesn’t meet the contract specifications) and the move into the new building will occur. Bunker said the city is anticipating a grand opening in March. Bunker herself will not be on hand to witness the moment however, as she is leaving the city in November to accept a position with the Mass Board of Library Commissioners.
“It’s exciting, but it’s hard to leave,” the Woburn native said. “It’s going to be a beautiful library and the community is going to love it. I’m excited for its bright future.”
To follow the project’s progress or to learn more about the renovation, visit woburnpubliclibrary.org.