City looks to move library

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, February 16, 2012

A city official confirmed on Thursday that the city is exploring the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts as one of its options for a new library location.

However, Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said, the process is in its very preliminary stages and nothing has been decided on or ruled out.

“That’s one potential option that we’re exploring,” Roberts said. “There’s any number of options to develop a central library plan.”

Email newsletter signup

The City Council voted last year to direct city staff to start investigating options for a new central library. The Morgan Memorial Library is looking at rising demand with little room to expand.

“It’s popular,” Roberts said. “It’s a service that people want to see improved and services offered to more people.”

Roberts said City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn has been talking with representatives from the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts since late last year. The city is looking at possibilities of putting the library in the building or adjacent to it, he added.

“They’ve got some space in the building that’s not fully utilized,” Roberts said. “That’s a space where the city has made tremendous investment. Right now, it’s too early to take any option off the table.”

Funding for the new library is a long way off. The Capital Improvements Plan puts it at least five years down the road.

But the beginning of public discussion may not be as far away. Roberts said city staff will report on their progress to council members in the spring.

He said the city is looking at property it owns, opportunities for public/private partnerships and the possibility of combining other capital needs with a new library.

At least two former mayors, however, do not support moving the library from its current site.

Andy Damiani and Kermit Kelley are circulating a petition to encourage the city to renovate and expand the existing building at 443 W. Washington St.

Damiani said the building could be expanded into a neighboring parking lot, which belongs to the building where the voter registrar’s office used to be, with either a one- or two-story wing.

“You can’t find a better location,” Damiani said. “It’s on the curb. It’s easily accessible. It makes a statement.”

Kelley said he does not believe the cultural arts center is a good location for a library, adding that the building could require more renovations to make it suitable for a library.

“They’re going to find a lot of things they didn’t know were there,” he said. “It’s not going to be easily done.”

Damiani has been circulating his petition for three days but already has more than 30 signatures. He will deliver it to City Council once he’s finished, he said.

“I don’t want it to happen,” he said of moving the library.