Locals can expect changes coming to the Williamsburg Regional Library downtown location, but there hasn’t been a decision yet on what those changes will be.
In March of 2018, discussions about the need for the library’s expansion began after an assessment from RRMM Lukmire Architects revealed the building needed 10,000 square feet added to the layout to address the current population, said Betsey Fowler, director of WRL.
WRL decided to reach out to locals through a survey to learn about what changes they would like to see during expansion planning.
The survey was completed by more than 3,000 respondents, mainly from James City County. Approximately 600 of those respondents were residents in Williamsburg or York County.
Responses to desired changes included adding more natural light, study rooms, and more sitting spaces. Fowler said the library will become more technologically friendly with robust WiFi and more electrical outlets.
Respondents noted one of the things they enjoyed about the library was its proximity to downtown Williamsburg. Fowler said many people described how they enjoy visiting the library after a day of shopping or eating downtown.
“What we saw was that the library is a major economic driver for downtown,” Fowler said. “It’s an important commercial and financial anchor.”
But, there is a possibility the prime location could change in the future.
To address the spacial issues, a few options have been proposed as solutions. One of which is to build an entirely new structure at a different location, which would cost approximately $23 million, Fowler said.
If there was a new building, it would be part of the joint library system that serves James City County and Williamsburg.
Another consideration would be to take down the current building and create a new two-story structure on the location, which would cost around the same amount, Fowler said. The other option is to renovate the building itself, which would cost $10 million plus the cost for furniture and fixtures.
Finally, there is an option to expand the current structure with a room over the children’s section, which would cost $17 million. But this option poses a problem because it would take up more space on an already cramped piece of land, Fowler said.
One of the issues the project is trying to correct is the lack of parking. The issue was prevalent on the surveys but if the building is expanded out instead of up, then there would be less room to create more parking.
“There’s upfront capital costs and there’s on-going operational costs,” Fowler said. “A joint facility would create savings in the long-term operational costs as opposed to operating added facilities.”
For all of those options, there would be a period of at least two years during which construction or renovations would take place. During that time, the operations would move to an interim library location. Fowler said that would most likely be a vacant department store but the location has not been decided.
There haven’t been any decisions made on which direction the changes will go, but Fowler said there will hopefully be movement in the process when the localities consider the Capital Improvement Projects at the end of the year.