South Burlington Public Library and City Hall: A Long-Desired Vision Comes True09/01/2021 05:00PM ● By Virginia Dean
A new government center in the heart of downtown South Burlington was made official on July 23, with remarks by federal and state legislators, among other key guests, led by City Council Chair Helen Riehle. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and community photo followed. Three floors of space were made available for visitors to explore. Outside, where Market Street between Mary Street and the entrance to the Central School had been blocked off, there was fun on the streets with food trucks, music, face painting, family games, and a bouncy house.
The new building, located at 180 Market Street, which connects Dorset Street and Hinesburg Road, houses the city hall, public library, an auditorium, and a senior center. City hall offices include planning and zoning, city manager’s office, recreation and parks, city clerk, and tax and assessment.
Modern Library, More Space
The library is two floors and 25,370 square feet—nearly three times the size of its previous space at the University Mall. Twenty percent is meeting room space for library programs and public use, leaving 20,388 square feet as open seating, stacks, staff space, restrooms, and storage.
The senior center is a dedicated space with a living room and an activity center with a catering kitchen. Seniors can drop by to have coffee or connect in the living room. Programs focused on wellness, creativity, and connection will begin in September 2021. Seniors will also have access to regular meals (previously, there was a coordinated weekly lunch with a program). A dedicated recreation specialist will provide programs focused on wellness, creativity, and connection, beginning in September. The building also has several spaces for meetings for committees, staff, and the community, and it is equipped with public Wi-Fi.
Modern Building, Modern Building Methods
Inside, the LEED-certified building is composed of drywall, wiring, and metal and uses both solar and geothermal systems for environmental control. The exterior siding provides a sustainable, protective shell of zinc, granite, brick, and Trespa (a compressed wood fiber and resin product). Fixed horizontal and vertical louvers on the south face of the building shade it from direct sun in the summer and bounce light into the space in the winter. The state of Vermont has provided a grant for 12 stations for charging electrical vehicles.
Serving the Community
The South Burlington Public Library will serve as a place where community members can gather, socialize, and engage in educational and recreational activities and civic participation.
Established in October 1971 with a goal of serving both the school district and community at large, the library was originally located in the South Burlington High School. In 2017, it was relocated to the University Mall as a temporary home while plans for a community center that would permanently house the library and city hall were underway. In November 2018, the South Burlington community approved the ballot initiatives that would make this plan a reality.
“South Burlington residents have been asking for a stand-alone public library since it first opened in the high school library,” says Library Director Jennifer Murray. “In 2012, the state approved a TIF district that included a new library as a cornerstone.” According to Jennifer, close to 70 percent of voters supported $22 million-plus project.
The library had long since outgrown the high school location, and the school and city had some security concerns about shared space following some security threats that resulted in lockdowns. City administrators then found the mall as the ideal transition location, and the library stayed there for three years.
The city interviewed several architectural firms and selected Wiemann Lamphere Architects in partnership with Humphries Poli Architects to come up with designs to be presented to the community for comment. Following numerous focus groups and design changes, a single design was put to the public vote. Subsequently, members of the architectural team, the library director, a member of the library board of trustees, the director of public works, and the project manager met weekly to design the new building inside and out.
A Space for Peace and Learning
“The beautiful new library provides an escape from the hustle and bustle, giving everyone a space to relax in, visit with friends, meet new people, browse, and engage in self-directed learning,” says Jennifer.
Although current statistics don’t show the breadth of its offerings due to the interference of COVID-19, data from 2019 indicate that 139,000 items circulated among 8,371 borrowers. Over 105,000 visitors came to the library and 5,400 individuals participated in library programs.
“The library now offers more space with dedicated areas, including a quiet reading room, collaborative working spaces, a tween and teen space, a digital lab, a community room and board room, children’s library, and a welcoming lobby with a fireplace,” says Coralee Holm, the director of community engagement and innovation.
The space is available for rent in the evenings or on weekends. The new state-of-the-art auditorium seats 100 people and will be used for public meetings for the city council and development review board, among others. It will also be programmed for library or recreation events, and is available to be rented by the public later this fall.
Virtual Branch Still Available
For the foreseeable future, the library will continue to use its website (www.southburlingtonvt.gov) as a virtual branch. The site leads cardholders to the eBook checkout; Kanopy for streaming video; VT Online Library for research, classes, and sample tests; to Consumer Reports; and to book lovers’ lists.
“In-house, we help people find their ‘next good book,’ assist with computer use, take requests, plan and implement programs, collaborate with community members and agencies, and provide a welcoming space to all South Burlington residents and visitors,” notes Jennifer.
This September, the library will kick off programming in the new space with Library Program Palooza. All ages will be invited for music, lectures, book discussions, current events, technology instruction, after-school programs, and storytimes.
“We have special spaces now for middle- and high-school students and look forward to working with them to develop programs and services that resonate with them,” Jennifer says. “Our digital lab will be equipped with laptops so that both we and outside agencies or businesses can offer technology and job training. Public computers will allow users to connect with family and friends and also act as resources for employment, health, and government. Residents are now coming in to offer their expertise for new programs or groups to add to our schedule. And our staff looks forward to expanding our Library of Things, items that one might need for a little while but don’t want to store at home, like a sewing machine, blood pressure monitor, binoculars, ukuleles, or a photo scanner.”
New in the building are two self-checkout machines, an audio and video recording studio, a quiet reading room that is phone- and device-free, a living room with a fireplace, and a stained-glass clock.
“We look forward to working closely with our city departments to enhance program offerings,” Jennifer says.
Patrick Leduc, head of the board of trustees, recently stated that the new public library, combined with the city hall and senior center and close-by elementary schools, is a “tremendous opportunity” for the community.
“Our library is a place where knowledge and education in the form of books, DVDs, tools, and programming is free and available to all. Combined with the oral history and rich experience of our seniors and co-located with the location of our elected officials, the library creates a place where all members of our community are welcome. It’s a place where our community can learn, grow, and understand each other. We are beyond excited to have this new community gathering place.”
The city hall is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm.
The library is open Monday through Thursday from 10am to 7pm, Friday from 10am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
For more information, contact Coralee A. Holm at [email protected] or (802) 846-4127. For project data, visit https://www.southburlingtonvt.gov/residents/city_center_tif_district/180Market.php
South Burlington Public Library and City Hall
180 Market Street
South Burlington, VT
Photos courtesy of South Burlington public library and city hall