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New public library proposal voted down

Pictured+above+is+the+design+for+a+new+public+library+on+Main+Street.+Wayland+residents+failed+to+pass+this+proposal+at+Tuesday%27s+Town+Meeting.
Pictured above is the design for a new public library on Main Street. Wayland residents failed to pass this proposal at Tuesday's Town Meeting.

Pictured above is the design for a new public library on Main Street. Wayland residents failed to pass this proposal at Tuesday's Town Meeting.

Pictured above is the design for a new public library on Main Street. Wayland residents failed to pass this proposal at Tuesday's Town Meeting.

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Wayland citizens did not reach a two-thirds majority vote to move forward with the new public library proposal at the town meeting on Tuesday, April 3. Construction on the new library would have begun in 2019 and been completed in 2021. The new library’s cost estimate was approximately $19 million. The proposal included a new public library much larger than the current one located next to the middle school on Main Street.

In three parts, WSPN looks into the library proposal, the vote and how Wayland citizens felt about the rejection.

Part I: The Proposal

Wayland citizens have been debating whether to move locations and construct a new library building for 15 years. The project was proposed in 2002 and has been controversial ever since. The idea came from the patrons and trustees of the Wayland Public Library who were frustrated with the lack of space and materials in the library. According to Wayland Public Library Director Sandy Raymond, for every new book the library gets, they have to remove an old one to accommodate the space.

“Lack of space was the reason that everyone was getting on each other’s nerves,” Raymond said.

Raymond has been a part of the Wayland Public Library for 14 years. She started as a reference librarian and was eventually promoted to the library director. She has been with the library through thick and thin, including when it was flooded for six months.

A lack of space is the force that is driving librarians, patrons and trustees to demand reconstruction of the library. Raymond and her colleagues believe the office space is cramped.

However, the employees are not the only ones who are frustrated with the lack of space. According to Raymond, patrons and visitors to Wayland Public Library would like more room to stretch out and enjoy a book. The children’s area is a specific area of concern for Raymond.

“Everyone wants to be able to curl up with their kid and read a book,” Raymond said. “But you do that cheek-to-jaw on a concrete step covered with carpeting.”

Everyone wants to be able to curl up with their kid and read a book, but you do that cheek-to-jaw on a concrete step covered with carpeting.”

— Sandy Raymond

The new children’s room would have featured 25 to 50 seats and an assortment of books, toys and other resources. The proposal also included a room for teens, replacing the aisle that they are allotted in the current library.

In addition to youth rooms, a tranquility room was included in the design to give space to those who wish to study, relax, reflect or read in silence.

A major concern for citizens was the financial impact of the new building. The building was planned to cost around $19 million to build, subsidized with a $10 million grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The rest of the costs would have come from citizens, costing approximately $6.01 a week per household for the year of 2021.

Studies have shown that reconstruction of libraries in the Boston area have received a 40 percent increase in visitors in the first year they opened. According to a survey by the town of Wayland, the Wayland Public Library currently receives approximately 2,100 visitors a week.

The current Wayland Public Library.

The building plan was 33,000 square feet, nearly two and a half times the library’s current size, and was expected to need one and a half times more staff members. Raymond also wanted to hire a teen librarian to help out after school and gain experience.

In addition to more space, the new library plan included more accessibility to handicapped people. In the current library, wheelchair users cannot take the elevator, and the mezzanine is closed to people with a walker, wheelchair or stroller.

Part II: The Town Meeting

The plan for the new library was put up for a vote during the Tuesday town meeting at the high school. An estimated 1,200 people attended the Tuesday meeting. Parking was limited and many attendees had to park at Happy Hollow or on side streets near the high school. Buses were available to shuttle people from designated parking locations to the high school.

There was a large police presence at the high school helping to direct traffic and control the crowd.

“There was a lot of planning that went into [the town meeting],” Wayland Police Chief Patrick Swanick said. “The fire chief and Lieutenant Gibbons did a lot of pre-planning with crowd control and setting up the entire venue.”

The meeting was held in the field house, but there was overflow seating available in the auditorium.

Article 17 addressed the new library proposal and was one of the first articles to be debated. Moderator Dennis Berry gave Wayland residents an opportunity to speak to the pros and cons of the article.

Senior Lucy Hughes spoke at the town meeting in support of the new library. Lucy’s father, Mark Peter Hughes, is a member of the Board of Library Trustees.

“I spoke because I really think a new library would have been good for our community,” Hughes said. “The new library isn’t going to affect me because I am graduating, but I wanted to do my part to speak for the younger kids of Wayland.”

This was the first time 18-year-old Hughes spoke at the town meeting, and she believed her perspective as a student would be different from others who presented.

Wayland residents gather in the WHS field house for Tuesday’s Town Meeting.

“I thought it would be a good idea to have a young voice because usually, it’s only older people speaking at town meetings,” Hughes said. “I also thought it was important to have somebody who is a student who has gone through the Wayland school systems and [who] has seen the current library in use speak.”

After Wayland residents spoke, Berry called for a vote on the article. Residents used handheld electronic devices to cast their vote. However, after some voters reported malfunctions with their electronic voting devices, Berry called for a recount.

Some residents were frustrated that there was a recount and vocalized their feelings, prompting the police to monitor the front of the crowd.

“It was heated,” Wayland Police Chief Swanick said. “It was one of the most lively town meetings I’ve been to, but people are passionate about things. It was a good success in planning, but this is democracy in action. Sometimes things get heated, but in the end, everyone’s walking out and no one is hurt.”

A recount vote yielded a 760-479 result in favor of the library. The 61.3% majority fell short of the two-thirds, or 66 percent majority required to pass a town meeting article that borrows money.

Part III: The Reactions

Immediately after the vote was announced, reactions were mixed.

“I think it’s sad,” Wayland parent Alexia Obar said. “We worked very hard. There’s been a lot of effort [put] into creating the best library for the town of Wayland, and it’s sad to see that all that work has not come to fruition.”

Wayland resident Marci Alvarado echoed Obar.

“I’m disappointed because I really think that in order to keep up with the times and support our kids in the future, having a larger facility for them to take advantage of and congregate [in] is pretty critical,” Alvarado said. “I’m disappointed that it didn’t pass.”

I’m disappointed because I really think that in order to keep up with the times, and support our kids in the future, having a larger facility for them to take advantage of and congregate is pretty critical.”

— Marci Alvarado

Some Wayland citizens were concerned about how the current library building would be used if a new library was constructed. The original deed from Warren G. Roby’s estate, who donated the land for the library, mandates that the 5 Concord Road area can only be used for the purpose of a library building. Proponents of the new library had no definitive solution as to what would be done with the old one. Senior Alex Beer said this concern was why she didn’t fully support the new library.

“I don’t necessarily think we need [the library],” Beer said. “My biggest concern is that we don’t really have a plan on what to do with the old building, so I don’t necessarily think it’s a good use of the town’s money.”

Many citizens who attended the town meeting were not happy with how the vote was run and that there was a recount. Some residents voiced their concerns, stating that the re-vote would not be fair because some people had left after the first vote, and therefore their votes would not be counted in the second vote. According to Berry, the results would have been the same if the first vote were counted. Berry’s decision to run a re-vote sparked controversy during the meeting.

My biggest concern is that we don’t really have a plan on what to do with the old building, so I don’t necessarily think it’s a good use of the town’s money.”

— Alex Beer

“I’m disappointed that it didn’t pass and disappointed in the process,” resident Ted Harding said.

Senior Jack Cappellucci came to the town meeting to watch the library vote. Although he felt neutral about the new library, he thought it was interesting to hear different sides of the debate.

“I don’t really care too much [about the new library],” Cappellucci said. “I think there are pros and cons on both sides. I think having it at a location closer to me would be cool, but it is also a lot of tax money, so I understand both viewpoints. I am pretty neutral.”

Wayland parent Heidi Seaborg did not originally support the new library, but she changed her mind after she looked into the proposal.

A floor plan included in the design for the new library.

“I have two little kids in town, [and] I am an outgoing member of our town’s recreation commission. I’m on the board of the Wayland Children and Parent Association. I had initially opposed the cost of the library project, but [I] came around after I realized what an incredible benefit to the town that it would be.”

Seaborg believes that the cost of the library is worth it for the new facility.

“My household isn’t really a household where money is no object, but access to the state-of-the-art library and the host of opportunities that would open up for my family and this community as a whole was enough for me to be swayed to vote in favor,” Seaborg said.

Residents voted later to approve other money loans in Articles 20 and 21. Article 20 passed in a 365-80 vote, granting $470,000 for a community center. Article 21 passed in a 285-15 vote, granting $1.8 million to renovate Wayland Fire Station No. 2.

Although other articles passed during Tuesday’s town meeting, many residents were most interested in the new library proposal.

“It was an incredible amount of work that the committee had done to push that work forward, and it’s incredibly disappointing,” Seaborg said. “I think we have more work to do to continue to build our community.”

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New public library proposal voted down