Trustees working to make Windsor library more accessible to all

  • Barbara Ball, the library director of the Windsor Public Library, shelves books on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 in Windsor, Vt. The library is getting grant funding to build an indoor lift to make the basement -- which includes the children's section, meeting rooms and historic records -- handicap accessible ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sherri Buckman, of Windsor, Vt., walks down the stairs after picking up her books from the Windsor Public Library on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library is doing curbside pickup only. Buckman has volunteered at the library in the past. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/15/2021 7:19:26 PM
Modified: 2/15/2021 7:19:25 PM

WINDSOR — In the basement of the Windsor Public Library, parents pick out books with their children, residents research historic records and community groups meet.

But since 1904, when the brick Georgian Revival building opened, the basement rooms, which are served by a narrow staircase, have been inaccessible to people who rely on wheelchairs or are unable to navigate the stairs.

That’s also a problem because the basement is home to the library’s only bathroom.

“It’s probably been the last 20 years the board (of trustees) has been working toward accessibility,” said library director Barbara Ball. “The money was never there for what they’d been hoping for.”

Instead, the Windsor Public Library’s Board of Trustees has pivoted from pursuing a large expansion to working with the space they have now to make it handicap accessible by installing a lift from the first floor to the basement.

They’re off to a strong start: Earlier this month, Ball announced that the library has received $45,000 in grants from three different organizations, including $25,000 from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, $10,000 from the Mascoma Foundation and $10,000 from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation. That puts the library roughly halfway toward its $100,000 goal.

“We can totally make this work with the building that we have,” Ball said, adding that retired architect Bob Haight has helped trustees with the plans. “We’re going to make it fit in the building’s original footprint.”

In order to install the lift, part of an upstairs office and the downstairs records room would be removed to make space. The project also includes rebuilding the staircase and renovating the bathroom to make it more handicap accessible. The plan is to raise the money and complete the project this year.

When Jacquelin Carty became board president in 2019, she started looking for ways that the library could improve accessibility without committing to a costly project.

While building an expansion remains a long-term goal, Carty and other board members realized there were steps they could take in the near future that require less money to complete.

“I was looking for a way to bring accessibility now without tampering or hampering what may come down the road,” Carty said. “But I didn’t want us to wait for what may come down the road when we need accessibility now.”

Originally, the board wanted to build an elevator but that plan is much more expensive and labor intensive than putting in a lift. As Carty and other board members began to research options, the lift became a clear choice.

“A lift could be great for a library like ours or a building like ours moving the number of people we need to move within a given day,” she said.

All it takes is hearing one story about someone who had to leave the library because they could not use the bathroom to motivate people to address the building’s accessibility deficiencies now, Carty said. But the lift won’t just benefit people with mobility issues: It can also help a mother with children in a stroller who would find the stairs difficult to navigate.

Previously, if patrons could not get to the children’s section in the basement, librarians would bring materials up to the first floor for them, Ball said.

“It’s so much better for someone to get down on their own,” she said.

Now, the board, library staff and members of the Friends of Windsor Library group are hard at work fundraising to get to that $100,000 goal.

“I’m excited for the library. I’m excited for our community,” Carty said. “I’m excited for people, even people on the board now, who have been waiting years and years to see this come.”

For more information about the project or how to donate, visit windsorlibrary.org.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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