The night of June 3 was a nervous one for West Hempstead Library Board President Ralph Reissman and the other members of the library board. But, when the votes were tallied, Mr. Reissman could breath a sigh of relief and revel in the notion that the library board had put together a plan that the community supported.
Inspecting the floor plans at the community forum are, from left: library director Regina Mascia, library board President Ralph Reissman, architect Len Salvador, Friends of the Library President Katherine Dunne, and construction manager William Sullivan.
By a vote of 1,649 to 905, residents approved a new library for West Hempstead. The new library will be built at 506-14 Hempstead Avenue, on the corner of Locust Avenue.
The building will be 25,000 square feet, approximately twice the usable space as the current location of the library in the Chestnut Street School.
Proponents of the new library believe that West Hempstead was long overdue for a modernized facility. Mr. Reissman pointed out that a community of 17,000 residents was being serviced by a library that, by state education requirements, should only be serving 6,400.
With a new facility, the library will now have the space to accommodate updated library services as well as provide a meeting place for community organizations. The plans call for a large community room for up to 150 people and a smaller community room for up to 35 people. "We're going to be a real center for cultural programs, concerts, lectures and kid's programs. People will have room for it. It's going to be much easier to park," said Mr. Reissman.
The Town of Hempstead will be assisting West Hempstead with parking for the facility by practically giving a parking lot of 158 spaces to the library. "We're very excited to have a community center for so many reasons," said Mr. Reissman.
In the current library, the board and the staff try to make due with what they have. "The clerks and the library director and assistant directors do an incredible job servicing the patrons under very difficult circumstances and very limited physical space," said Mr. Reissman.
However, the new library will enable the board and the staff to improve services. The new library will provide more room for the children's area. "We don't even have room now to put the books out. We have some on a rolling cart," said Mr. Reissman. "They're not only going to have book space, we going to have tables for little children to pick out the books they want and read. We're very excited about the children's room."
Another area that will benefit from the new library is the young adult section. The current young adult area consists of one desk and two rolling cars. The new library will provide a big improvement to the service for teenagers.
Mr. Reissman said the new library will also provide space so that the library can offer DVDs for the patrons.
In addition to providing more space for library materials, the new facility will provide space for programs that are now overbooked. People had to be turned away from some programs. That no longer will be the case. "Now, we will have a lot more opportunity and a lot more room for everybody to benefit," Mr. Reissman said.
Another area of the library that will benefit from more room is the technology services. Currently, there are two computers in the library. The new library will provide enough room for 12 to 14 computer stations with high speed Internet access.
In passing the library bond, the community acknowledged that West Hempstead was in need of a bigger facility. The present library holds 90,000 books, even though it was designed to carry a maximum of 50,000. The new library will not only provide enough room for the current collection, but the library board now has the option of increasing the collection. "We will be ordering books as needed and as requested by the patrons. Right now, we have no room at all. Everytime we ordered a book, we had to throw out a book. That's not the way to preserve knowledge," said Mr. Reissman.
Now that the vote has passed, the library board can go ahead with its plan to build the new library. The cost to the average household will be $9.85 per month over the course of the 20-year bond. But Mr. Reissman points out the community will be getting the modern library it deserves.
Out of the 53 libraries in Nassau County, West Hempstead was 46th in terms of space. However, West Hempstead was 16th highest in usage. "The community wants a bigger library and needs it and deserves it for their great loyalty over the years," said Mr. Reissman.
The community did fail to pass a proposal for a new library last year for the corner of Hempstead Avenue and Woodfield Road. The location was said to be a problem.
This time, community members seemed to support the location. In addition, the community will benefit from historically low interest rates. "In terms of the voters, the location was a very big factor," said Mr. Reissman.
Now, with the library bond passing, the school district will have to take the shopping center that currently exists in the area by imminent domain. Mr. Reissman said some of the merchants are actively seeking other locations. According to Mr. Reissman, there are two owners in the area. One owner owns the strip of stores while another owns the gas station. "If we are unable to reach financial agreement with the owners, the school district as the public entity would take possession by imminent domain after legal proceedings. Down the road, the judge might decide the value," said Mr. Reissman.
The next step in the process is for the library to have a kickoff meeting with the architect, engineer, library board trustees and library director to come up with a timetable. The library must acquire the title to the land. Architectural construction plans will have to be drawn to submit to the New York State Education Department in Albany for approval. That could take six months. The contracts for the work will have to be drawn up and then the bid awarded. That could take eight weeks. Once the bids are awarded, ground can be broken. Mr. Reissman estimates that the entire process could take 14 to 18 months. The library could open somewhere between June 2005 and January 2006.