Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Future of Williamsburg Regional Library remains undecided

The downtown location of the Williamsburg Regional Library will undergo changes in the future, but it's still not decided what those changes will be. (WYDaily/Courtesy of City of Williamsburg)
The downtown location of the Williamsburg Regional Library will undergo changes in the future, but it’s still not decided what those changes will be. (WYDaily/Courtesy of City of Williamsburg)

There are still no decisions for the future of the Williamsburg Regional Library’s renovations.

Discussions regarding renovations began in March 2018, when an assessment from RRMM Lukmire Architects showed the downtown location needed an extra 10,000 square feet to provide for the current population.

There are a few options currently being considered to address that need.

Previously, there were options to renovate the current building or to expand the structure with a room over the children’s section, but Betsy Fowler, the library’s director, said these options are no longer being discussed.

Instead, Fowler said there are preliminary conversations occurring between James City County and the city of Williamsburg about the potential of funding a new library facility on the current existing Williamsburg site.

The other option is to build a new third location in the county instead of building a jointly funded library in Williamsburg.

RELATED STORY: Survey results reveal information toward future library changes

However, none of those options have been selected yet.

“I don’t think there have been any decisions made at this point,” Fowler said. “We have had conversations with both jurisdiction [Williamsburg and James City County] and both appreciate the need for a new facility.”

Fowler said the process is still unfolding and will depend on what the jurisdictions decide. A Capital Improvements Project request was sent to James City County, she said, for both the alternatives and a standalone facility.

“Since two scenarios are not typically presented it will be up to the county to determine if the submission moves forward to the Planning Commission for consideration and if so, in what form,” she added in an email.

In terms of the joint facility, she said there have been on-going discussions with the city of Williamsburg but there hasn’t been a specific Capital Improvement Project request submitted yet this year.

Fowler said the process is something that will take a while and the library wants to make sure it’s done properly and with the best option.

RELATED STORY: Williamsburg Regional Library wants public to have say on building’s future

“Well I think what the library is doing is we understand it’s a process that will take a few years, even once the decision is made on constructing a new facility one way or another,” she said.

In the meantime, the library is working on other ways to improve.

The location in James City County announced in the fall it would undergo a number of renovations to the children’s area this year. Fowler said there is currently a focus to look at that location because more people are moving toward that end of the county, especially families.

She said renovations on the James City County location are slightly easier because the building is newer and constructed with more open spaces to allow for updates.

RELATED STORY: James City County Library to start $310K renovations this month

“The county has been very supportive to help us move forward,” she said. “That facility is about 25 years old now and the building is in great shape structurally. But library services have really changed, the whole advent of the internet and technology occurred after it was built.”

She said when deciding which path to move forward with on the Williamsburg location, preparing for future changes is something that will be taken into consideration. If a new building is constructed, it will be done so in a way that allows for updates and renovations throughout the years.

The Williamsburg location is 50 years old and has outdated infrastructure that is difficult to update, she said.

“You don’t know in 20 years what your needs will be, but you know you’ll still be at that library so the building has to be adaptable,” Fowler said.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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