I am a member of the Rutland Free Library Board of Trustees, and I fully support moving the library to the proposed new location.
Like many people in Rutland, I am extremely fond of the old building — it is a living piece of Rutland’s history — but it was never meant to be a library. It was a space the library moved into because it was the best possible option at the time and as the decades have passed, it presents more and more challenges.
I know some people have expressed a desire to “save” the current library building, but we could get our current location into tiptop shape and it will still never have a dedicated, safe children’s space; it will never have a space for teens that really feels like their own; and it would take millions of dollars of upgrades to make the upper floors compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act so they could be used for public functions.
I also know some have expressed concern about the people who walk to the current location. The library trustees have been researching and weighing the pros and cons of the existing building for long before the four years I have been serving on the board. And while there are certainly folks who walk, the majority of library patrons drive there — and have trouble finding a parking spot — and if they are elderly or have young children and have to park on the opposite side of Center Street, then navigating a fairly continual traffic flow is also a challenge.
Moving the library to the proposed location will save Rutland City taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run, give us a chance to design a library floor plan that will be optimal for the needs of patrons and staff, provide more and safer parking, and reunites the library with the Rutland City Recreation Center, which is a winning move for city residents. The Bus already makes multiple stops a day at this location because of the Rec Center, and once the multi-use path is completed, people will have a safe convenient way to walk or ride their bikes to the new location.
I know there has been some confusion as to why city residents needed to weigh in on the Rec Center purchase but not the library’s. The Recreation Department is part of Rutland City government and the money used to buy the former College of St. Joseph gym comes out of taxpayers’ pockets. Rutland Free Library is not part of city government. It is, and always has been, a nonprofit organization. We ask Rutland City and other local municipalities for financial support to maintain ongoing operations (and for this support, residents of these towns get a library membership at no personal cost). But no taxpayer dollars will go toward the purchase of the new location. In addition to operational funds the library receives from its supporting municipalities, we also receive donations — many very generous — and host various fundraisers throughout the year. So while Rutland Free Library has already begun the process of seeking input from the residents of Rutland City, Rutland Town, Ira and Mendon — and any other locals who wish to have their voices heard — the final decision to move to the new location rests with the library as an organization itself.
In regard to the current location, what its future holds does not rest in the hands of Rutland Free Library, which has never owned the building. It is a city building and as such, future decisions about it reside with Rutland’s mayor and Board of Aldermen. They would determine what exciting future can unfold there.
In closing, I can’t stress enough how positive a change I believe this move will be for the library itself and our community as a whole. But I know people have many questions, and more will come up. As they do, please feel free to reach out to me. People can contact me, any library trustee they know, or go on the website newly set up to answer questions and take input on this big event.
William Notte lives in Rutland City.