By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
Oxford Public Library officials presented details of and took questions about the proposed facility expansion last Thursday, Sept. 14.
Library Director Bryan Clouiter and architect Seth Penchansky of Daniels and Zermack presented details of the expansion, reasons behind why and how the proposal is the way it is and answered audience questions regarding the proposal and the bond.
Most of the expansion depends on the approval of a capital improvement bond not to exceed $9.1 million paid for at a millage rate of 0.55 mill ($0.55 per $1,000 of taxable value) in 2022 and 0.48 mill from 2023 until the bond is paid off. Voters have until Nov. 2 to either turn in their absentee ballots or to vote in person.
According to the presentation, the expansion is broken into five parts. Youth services is the first part, which would be relocated and expanded to accommodate the size of its collection of books and other items, as well as more space for youth events including a patio. Adult services is the second part, which would be expanded to include more study rooms, a larger computer lab and a local history and genealogy room. The community room is the third part, which would be expanded within the confines of the setback to bring capacity up to 200 people. A maker space — a collaborative space open to all community members with the materials and resources to work on myriad projects — is the fourth part. HVAC and roofing upgrades are included as the fifth part, though the library has budgeted for these in case the bond fails. The bond will also cover a small staff expansion and an eastward extension of the parking lot.
One of the driving reasons behind the expansion is the growing lack of space for its collection.
“Libraries aren’t necessarily built to house the entire collection at one time,” Cloutier said. “But during the pandemic we certainly learned those times can come and we need to be better prepared for them.”
Cloutier said had the library not encouraged people to hold onto their books around the start of the pandemic, a rush of returns would have led to books piling up on shelves and in the isles due to lack of space.
Expanding the library has been in mind since the existing building was created, though the board did not want to pursue another bond while still paying off the building’s original bond. This occurred in 2016, and the board brought an earlier version of the expansion plan to voters in 2020. Cloutier says there were plans to hold meetings like this one to discuss the expansion with the voters, though these were derailed by the pandemic making public gatherings difficult.
“We felt that given we didn’t have a fair opportunity to share the plan with the voters, given the fact that nobody really knew what the future was going to bring – there were a lot of uncertainties,” Clouiter said.
Despite not being able to speak with voters, the bond lost by a margin of about 50 votes. The library board asked the Oxford Township Board of Trustees in July about putting the bond up for vote this November, which the board obliged by a 5-2 vote.
“We felt that the library and the people who support it deserved an opportunity to understand the picture and to engage in these types of dialogues to make a conscientious decision going forward,” Cloutier said.
According to Cloutier, the library owns all land required for the expansion, even though efforts were made to work with Oxford Community Schools and Oxford Township Parks and Recreation about securing easements to use the Oxford Elementary service road and pave the Powell Lake park’s parking lot, respectively. OCS decided to maintain the current agreement while the Parks were not interested in paving the lot. The youth services patio could be converted into a service route if need be.
Though the library has yet to officially submit the plans to the township Planning Commission, it has worked with township officials throughout the planning process. If approved, the plan will go before the commission.
“It is not common practice to go to zoning and planning for municipal projects before it is approved by the voter,” Cloutier said.
Cloutier is open to answering questions directly from and sharing details on the project with interested voters, who can contact him at 248-628-3034. Another meeting about the project and bond is Thursday, Oct. 28 at 10:30 a.m. The library has a page on its website about the bond and expansion, which can be found at https://miopl.org/library-bond-proposal.
By Dean Vaglia