The roofs and windows at the Oceanside Library leak regularly, the restrooms have not been redone in 22 years, and many rooms need to be modernized. Those are just a few of the reasons that the library board voted 7-0 on Jan. 15 to approve putting a $33.5 million bond to a vote to fund repairs.
“We wanted to take this opportunity to reimagine the library in the way we’re using it now and the way it’s likely to be used in the next 10 to 20 years,” said Tony Iovino, the library’s director of community services. “Looking at what the future of the library is, libraries kind of need to reinvent themselves every 20 to 30 years.”
The bond, which residents will vote on as part of the May 19 school budget vote, would upgrade some of the library’s rooms, enable the facility to host more programs and shows, and enhance security while making the building more environmentally friendly. The bond would cost $1.8 million per year, and the average Oceanside homeowner’s library tax would rise from $314 to $454 annually if it is approved. That would mark an increase of $140 per year, or $11.66 per month, per household. The Oceanside Library now ranks 30th of 54 libraries in Nassau County in per capita spending, and would jump to 15th if voters approve the bond. About 90 residents attended last week’s board meeting, at which the proposal was presented.
Iovino said the building now measures about 30,000 square feet, and the construction would add an additional 10,000 feet. He added that attendance at the library has grown by 70 percent over the past year, and the library’s circulation statistics have also risen.
“Patrons use libraries differently now than they did years ago,” Library Director Christina Mara said. “Vision 2020 will prepare the library for the future and provide a modernized library for the community. [It] will benefit the community in many ways. By adding space, making the library more energy-efficient and addressing pressing infrastructure issues, the library will be able to expand services to patrons of all ages.”
If voters approve the bond, the library would become more energy-efficient with the addition of LED lighting, triple -pane reflective windows that are soundproof, solar panels and a green roof. Security enhancements at the facility would include increased exterior lighting, enhanced active shooter security and drills, an upgraded camera system and an internal security upgrade.
Another major project that the bond would cover is a 165-seat theater for musicals, plays, concerts and movies. Iovino said the library now has a multi-purpose room to host its major events, but it has a flat floor, which causes visual problems for those sitting beyond the fifth row. He said the theater would have a slanted floor to help patrons view the performances better, and noted that the multi-purpose room is one of the most used rooms in the library, as it is booked every day, except for one, from Jan. 2 through March 31.
Iovino said the process to pinpoint needed projects was lengthy. The library hosted 26 focus groups, and its board and directors spoke with more than 300 residents to gather feedback on what needed improvement at the facility.
“We’ve tried to think of a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’ve been planning it for a long time, and we’d like to think we put a lot of thought into it and are trying to address as many needs as we can.”
Many residents have expressed support for the bond, including Jonathan Shusterman, who said, “The library should get everything it needs.” Angela Marshall said she was also in favor of it. “If you’ve ever been there when the elevator is out of order, you know these renovations are necessary,” she said.
Some residents, however, expressed concern over the financial impact the bond would have on their taxes and questioned the process by which contractors would be hired.
Iovino said there is no set timeline for construction, but if the bond passes in May, library administrators expect it to take six to nine months to get project approvals. The goal, he added, is to begin construction in spring 2021, and it would take about two years to complete. The facility would close during the work, but Iovino said the library board is looking at spaces to rent so that the facility could remain open. Once the construction phase began, Iovino said, contracts would be posted on the library’s website to foster transparency.
A library has been a fixture of the community ever since the Oceanside School No. 2 PTA expressed its desire to create one in 1937. The first library was built on Davison Avenue in 1940 and was upgraded several times over the years. A bond has not been put to vote since 1994, when residents approved a $6 million proposal. Iovino said that more than two decades later, it was time for another bond so that patrons can get what they need from the library.
“We think that this deals with the facility as a building,” he said. “It deals with the way the library’s currently used, which is markedly different than it was even 10 years ago, and prepares us to go forward for the next 30 to 50 years. This is the future of the library, and the library is the center of Oceanside.”