The Ettrick-Matoaca library renovation was a hot topic last month, as Matoaca District Supervisor Marlene Durfee hosted a community meeting at the building itself.
Built in 1975, the library is over 35 years old and rests on property owned by Virginia State University. Currently the building has approximately 7,000 square feet available for the public, and the anticipated $3.5 million project would increase it to 9,000 square feet.
Mike Mabe, the director of the Chesterfield County Public Library, agrees it should be bigger; however, he believes there should also be more libraries in the county as well.
“This building is not getting any bigger; what we are trying to do is redo the interior to give more space back to the public, which is what we had planned to do and pitched in 2004 during the Bond Referendum,” he said. “It’s not going to get bigger; it’s going to get better. I believe it will provide better service for the customers who currently use it.”
According to the meeting notice provided to people attending that meeting, the building has “poor traffic flow, and the layout is not conducive to efficient customer service.” And as an architect has been working on the plans for a new design of the site, there is an effort to provide new and improved library services and “high-performance building features.”
Anticipated improvements include: better lighting, improved climate control, an improved children’s area, new meeting space, more seating and workspace for the public, new public restrooms, wider aisles, improved landscaping, and enhancements to the parking lot.
Numerous Matoaca and Ettrick residents in attendance that evening voiced their frustrations. One was Egdar Wallin who asked, “Why aren’t plans here tonight? Normally, the architects are here to listen and hear the people so they can reflect…” Wallin voiced his concern because he believed architectural plans had already been designed, therefore making what citizens wanted out of the renovation irrelevant.
Another was Janis Johnson, who complained about the lack of clarity in the descriptions of what would change from the renovation. “Everything that’s listed here, as far as what the new facility will offer, they’re all subjective terms,” she said. “It says ‘better lighting, improved climate;’ it says improved children’s area, what does that meant?”
However, despite the numerous frustrated concerns voiced by her constituents, Durfee assured them the plans for the renovation project were not set in stone.
“Part of this meeting is to have preliminary discussions,” Durfee said. “I did not want to come in here and stand here and say, ‘Here’s the way we’re doing this.’ That’s not the way I do it as a supervisor.”
She said the meeting was for citizens to express their opinions on the issue, and said the architect – who could not make the Aug. 31 meeting – would be attending the next meeting on the renovation scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m.
“I can’t offer you another library, and I’m not going to promise you that,” she said. “But I will just let you know that we’re doing our very best to try what we can do for this building.”