October 27, 2021

Addition funding for Groton Library

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

A worker helps finish the brickwork Wednesday on an addition to the Groton Public Library. The work to add the addition was funded with a state grant. A second, $150,000 grant, will help renovate the century-old library’s interior.

GROTON — The Groton Library has received an additional $150,000 to help with renovation costs at the library, Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford) has announced, even as workers labored to finish laying bricks on an addition’s exterior earlier this week.

“We had to match it with $50,000,” said library Director Sara Knobel.

Work began on a 2,000-square-foot addition to the library in June, after a delay because the coronavirus pandemic shut down businesses. The expansion is part of a two-phase, $1.2 million project to reimagine the library and how it’s used.

The new grant funding, which comes from $34 million in capital funds for public library construction and broadband infrastructure projects provided in the 2019-20 state budget, will help cover the costs associated with the project’s second phase. That includes the interior redesign, relocation of the children’s area and adult books, adding two disabled-accessible bathrooms and a vestibule.

On Wednesday, the shell of the addition had been built and the interior was filled with studs as workers tried to complete the exterior in preparation for installing windows, project manager Jim Turner said.

The library, built in 1917, has been cramped for years, and the acquisition of new space was one of four goals outlined in a five-year plan drafted in 2014, Knobel said.

The library has gone far beyond the traditional mission of lending books and giving people a place to read. Until the coronavirus pandemic ended it, the library hosted a monthly dinner and cooking classes. It had teen movie nights and in 2018 started opening at 10 a.m. instead of its normal 2 p.m. to give kids a safe place to hang out. It has become a hub for the community, Knobel said.

Funding for both phases comes from grants and donations.

The $250,000 first phase reconfigured the existing space. The library received a $125,000 state library construction grant. The grant required the library to match the funds, said board of trustees President Sheri Shurtleff. The board did that using reserve funds.

The second phase of the project is the 2,000 square-foot addition to the back of the library. The addition is being built on 6,000 square feet of land donated by former Tompkins County emergency response director Lee Shurtleff and his family.

The one-story addition originally was to include a full basement, but that was scrapped after project bids came in over budget.

The library got $700,000 in state funds, sponsored by both Seward and Assembly Member Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca). The Friends of the Groton Public Library also raised more than $150,000.

“Libraries have evolved a great deal over the years to continue to meet community needs, especially in the rural areas I represent,” Seward said in a news release. “Electronic lending has skyrocketed and many people utilize the internet at their local library to job search or catch up on news from around the globe. Many adjustments have taken place over the past few months, but our local libraries are still vital community beacons.”

Knobel said the renovations are on track to finish in early spring.