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Williamsburg begins the process of creating a “landmark” library replacement

The Scotland Street library location has served the Williamsburg community since 1973.
Nick McNamara / WHRO
The Scotland Street library location has served the Williamsburg community since 1973.

Williamsburg Regional Library officials want to modernize the 50-year-old Williamsburg branch building.

After years of talks, Williamsburg Regional Library is looking to replace its Scotland Street building with one that can better meet the needs of staff and residents.

The Williamsburg branch was built in 1973 and had notable additions in 1982 and 1998. Despite that, Interim Library Director Sandy Towers said the organization still struggles with space limitations.

“We are really bursting at the seams,” she said.

The project involves tearing down the current building and replacing it with one that’s more ADA accessible, has more space for children’s materials and meeting rooms and features up-to-date technology and utilities.

“The plumbing, the HVAC, the electrical and data – all of those systems are in desperate need of upgrade,” Towers said. “We are really just one catastrophic failure away from having to close the library.”

Towers also wants to see more room for the makerspace and digital memory lab as well as an upgraded, modern theater.

“This building has served us really well, but it’s time for a new building that has the infrastructure that can support the kinds of programming that we do now,” she said.

The chosen contractor will be expected to demolish the Williamsburg Police Department station on the same block. The police station is relocating to Lafayette Street in late 2025 and the regional library could potentially use that space for its new building.

The project is expected to cost around $42 million and no solid timeline is currently in place for its completion. Towers said the design could take 12 or more months with another 12 months for construction.

“It’s a landmark building, it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We want to do it right,” she said.

Conversations around replacing the library picked up under the leadership of former Library Director Betsy Fowler. She conducted community surveys and input sessions over the years to determine public interest and expectations for a new Williamsburg building.

Contractor bids are due by the end of June, and Williamsburg City Council is expected to vote on a preferred contractor as early as August.

“Then we will start planning public input sessions,” said Towers. “There will be opportunities for everyone in the community to give us their ideas, to tell us what they’d like to see.”

As the project progresses, Williamsburg Regional Library staff will need to relocate its services from the Scotland Street building. Towers said the specifics will depend on multiple variables, such as whether the final design requires the police station be torn down at the start or end of construction.

“If they determine that the best location on this block is where the police station is, then the library building could remain operational for at least part of the construction time,” she said. “If they determine that the place where the library is now is the best site, then we will have to have alternate operations sooner rather than later.”

Some possibilities include finding a vacant storefront in town to setting up shop in the old police station temporarily.

“That’s yet to be determined, but we will make sure that somehow we are able to still serve the community,” Towers said.

Whatever it looks like, and wherever it sits, Towers said improving accessibility and service to their patrons is the main goal for the new library facility.

“I’m looking forward to a building that is a community hub where people can come and they can connect with each other.”

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