Creating a showcase at PPL

Proposed library building plans are unveiled

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In three years or so, Peninsula Public Library patrons could be reading books in a rooftop garden overlooking Zion Park on Central Avenue in Lawrence, or stepping off a Long Island Rail Road train at the Lawrence station and walking across the parking lot to return books they borrowed for their commutes.

Should a public referendum to build a new state-of-the-art library be approved, those scenes could become a reality. A date for the vote has yet to be set.

Last September, the library and the village signed an agreement for PPL to purchase roughly 30,000 square feet of land next to Zion Park and across from the train station for $3.33 million, a proposal that had been in the works for some time. “When I came here 10 years ago, there was already talk of a new building,” said Carolynn Matulewicz, the library’s director. “There’s really been a push in the last few years.”

PPL released a brochure with details of the project on July 29. It includes floor-by-floor plans, a schematic illustration of exactly where the facility will be built, and the results of a survey gauging the community’s preferred amenities for the new building. The library received 868 responses. Nearly 95 percent said they would approve a public referendum, and 89 percent noted that more parking spaces would greatly improve their library experience.

The five-story, 37,500-square-foot building would be erected on the west side of Zion Park, with an entrance facing Lawrence Avenue. According to Matulewicz, it would have adequate parking — there are only 23 spots at the current library — and any LIRR commuter spaces that would be eliminated to make room for the building or its parking lot would be replaced with spots closer to the tracks.

Matulewicz said that most of the concerns she has heard expressed by residents focus on parking. Former Mayor Martin Oliner, who lives across Central Avenue from Zion Park, said he believed the building should be on a larger plot of land. “It’s a beautiful project, but it belongs on a parcel that’s three or four times this size,” Oliner said. “We’ll have a situation where the parking lot isn’t big enough for the library or the people who typically park there.”

Oliner suggested the 4.35-acre property on Rock Hall Road that housed the demolished Lawrence sewage treatment plant. He added that it would have ample room for parking, even if it isn’t as centrally located.

The current 57-year-old library measures 13,500 square feet and serves 34,000 residents, according to library officials. At just .38 square feet per patron, it has the smallest space per user in the Nassau County Library System.

“Though our library’s current structure is small and antiquated, our population is very engaged,” said Sarah Yastrab, a library trustee. “We consistently have among the highest circulation in Nassau County. Personally, I’m most excited about the prospect of being able to deliver content and programming to our patrons in a more efficient and comfortable manner in the new building, and having the physical space that reflects the excellence and beauty of our community.”

The building’s lower level would have two community rooms and a lounge. Matulewicz said that program attendees and PPL employees are excited about doubling the number of community rooms. Events could then be held simultaneously, saving staffers from having to prepare one room for every event.

The main level would have the circulation desk and a café — possibly a Starbucks. The second floor would be the family level, with books for children and teenagers, a play space for toddlers, with seating for parents nearby, and collaborative space where children and teens could work on a variety of projects. The third floor would have a quiet adult library geared toward students and professionals, as well as the reference desk, private offices that could be reserved in advance, and a fireplace. And there would be garden seating on the roof.

Shari Maslow, who was looking through the children’s section in the current building with her grandson, said that more parking and a larger children’s area were the two things she would like to see. It was her grandson’s first trip to PPL, but “his mother grew up spending a lot of time here,” Maslow said.

Matulewicz and Yastrab both said they hoped the new building could become a place where library district residents could gather. “It’s going to be a community asset, a showcase of the community,” Matulewicz said. “A place where people can gather for big events, or just go to meet up.”

Have an opinion about the new library? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.