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Brainerd Library Renovation Plan

When the Brainerd Memorial Library was built in 1908 with funds Cyprian Strong Brainerd Jr., the vision of the founders was a place where the public could come for self-education. The building was designed as a place where books contributed by the users and by the library itself could be accumulated, stored and shared, and where the community could come to read, study and participate in joint activities. All these functions are still very much alive in our library today, more than 100 years later, but much has changed as well, because of the advent of computers and the internet, many more visuals, and the much higher and different level of education our society demands today.

Such changes will continue, and with this in mind, at a small reception of key library supporters on November 4, The Board of the Library and Director Tom Piezzo presented an interior renovation plan intended to adapt the library to the modern demands of the 21st century. The plan does represent a significant step forward, offering an overarching vision of what needs to be done. That plan will in turn guide the Library as it takes the necessary steps in that direction.

To arrive at this overall vision the Board created a subcommittee headed by Board Vice-President Marijean Conrad, which in turn sought professional assistance from George Fellner, an architect whose offices are in East Haddam. Mr. Fellner has done a number of other projects in Haddam, but was selected for this job because he is particularly experienced in both planning and designing libraries renovations. He recently guided the renovation of the Cheshire Library, and has done other work for the Middlefield Library. Under his guidance, the committee and the director undertook a process of analysis drawing on many sources such as the Library’s own staff, the Board, prior community surveys, and the experience of other libraries, plus, of course, a careful examination of how the library is currently being used. A fuller account of the results of this process has been posted online at, where the interested reader will find the current and proposed future layout of the Library, along with a detailed explanation of all the changes proposed. This summary only covers some of the highlights.

The historic cupola and adjacent front rooms will be renovated but otherwise left much as they are, except that an obsolete circular staircase near the front door has to be removed. Instead, the book sales display area will be placed to either side of the majestic front door. The front desk will be reconfigured to improve circulation and glass doors will separate the lobby from the book stacks. That way events can take place in the front of the library while the rest is of the library is closed. In the large room with the book stacks, the amount of shelf space will remain the same, but the stacks rearranged to open up the center of the room, which would now new extend all the way from one bay window to the other, with sitting areas at each end, and distributed work stations in between. The spread out, diversified nature of these work stations is needed to cater to the wireless, distributed, and much more diversified nature of most electronic equipment nowadays. The new layout also allows for the creation of an enclosed partitionable conference room and a study room, which the Library currently lacks. Users should also remember that libraries now are part of consortiums that expand the range of books available to clients beyond that which is in the stacks.

At the lower level the present community room will have its kitchenette and furniture upgraded, and the nook previously occupied by the circular stairs will now serve as much needed place to store furniture. This event room, which is already in high demand for community meetings, will now be much more versatile, with its own entrance from the outside. A new teen lounge will occupy the space previously allocated to the book nook sales area. That teen space will be properly furnished and separated from the community room by a transparent partition, and it will have its own entrance from the downstairs lobby. That lobby, in turn will have glass partitions and doors separating it from the rest of the library, again so that the community room and associated bathrooms can be made available to the public after hours, when the rest of the library is closed. The children’s area will remain where it is now but will be more functional: it will be reconfigured to create a rejuvenated and more creative environment, using low modular units which incorporate storage, allow for fluid circulation, and can be used to create separate areas catering to different children’s activities. The redesign, using lower furniture, provides clearer lines of sight so as to facilitate adult supervision even as children engage in separate activities. The existing entrance to the outside will also be reconfigured. The redesign of this area has a high priority because programs for children have become an increasingly important library activity.

The November 4 presentation by George Fellner (see below) did not encompass certain other Library improvements that are already being worked on. One is the replacement of the furnace, for which the Town has graciously assisted. The other involves changes to the exterior of the Library that will make for a direct handicap-accessible entrance to the lower floor to the community room and children’s program area in the lower floor. Parking will also be added on that side of the building, thereby providing enough capacity for both the Library and the Senior Center across the street (the Senior Center has very limited room for parking, so it uses the Library’s parking on meeting days). That added parking in turn requires the relocation of the driveway to 816 Saybrook Rd, behind the library. That property was purchased several years ago by the Library, with the intention of reselling it once its driveway and the common boundary with the Library was changed to grant the Library 50% more land. The added land has also served to enhance its outdoor summer programming which can now take place in a handsome meadow which previously belonged to the neighbor. The changes to the lot boundary plus all exterior changes are subject to regulatory approvals currently underway. Similarly the State grant sought for this project required project review by the State Historical Preservation Office, since this is a historic building.

The total cost of all these improvements is estimated at $530,000, of which approximately $150,000 is for the aforementioned exterior improvements. The good news is that, by making better and more efficient use of its existing interior space, the library can be brought to 21st century standards without any increase to its square footage, which in turn saves a great deal of money. According to Raul de Brigard, Board Chairman, the interior renovations will be phased, beginning in 2019, with stages to match funding availability. As alluded to above, an application has already been submitted for a state grant, as well as a CIP request for local funds, even as the Board is preparing a major capital campaign. The eventual sale of the reconfigured lot behind the Library will also play a part in financing this project. In short, the money will need to be raised gradually from many sources, but the purpose has been set. Indeed, according to Mr. de Brigard, so far there has been a general consensus that the improvements Mr. Fellner has laid out in his new plans for the interior have been well thought out, and have sufficient flexibility to be further improved in the future.

Raul DeBrigard, 11/22/17

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15 Main Street, P.O. Box 115                                                                           Tel  860-873-8230

East Haddam, Connecticut  06423


November 14, 2017



by George Fellner, AIA


In consideration of changing spatial requirements and new functional needs, a new master plan has been generated for the Brainerd Memorial Library.  Fellner Assocociates Architects worked closely with the Library Planning Committee for this interior planning phase.


At the main level, the existing obsolete circular front stairs are to be de-constructed, relocated, and reconstructed at a new potential historic location, preferably within the Town of Haddam.  This space would then have a new floor with curved bookshelves to accommodate the book sales function.  The adjacent front historic rooms will involve restoration with repairs and painting work.  In the lobby area, a new re-configured U-shaped circulation desk will improve public access and the existing double openings will accommodate public flow between the lobby and the book stacks/study areas.  New double-sliding glass doors with upper glass transoms will be added, in order to provide the ability to close off and separate the spaces during events.


A complete reconfiguration will involve a new relationship between the book stacks and the study/lounge areas.  The intent is to disperse the study tables, computer stations, and the lounge areas into smaller paired segments with low-shelf stack connectors along the X-axis, and allowing for visual sight lines between the two exterior-arc wall niches.  The linear book stack areas are composed of high-shelf stacks at the outer regions and low-shelf stacks at the center Y-axis, coherently following the theme of allowing for visual sight lines.  Ultimately, this new spatial relationship will provide a better, rejuvenated use of the space for book searching, studying, computer activities, and reading/lounging.  In addition, new study tables and chairs, as well as new lounge chairs are planned.


A new conference room will accommodate an 8-person table for private meetings.  A new adjacent study room will accommodate 2-4 persons.  The new folding panel wall between these two rooms can provide the flexibility for combining the spaces to accommodate a 12-person table.  A third new study room will also accommodate 2-4 persons.  The furniture will most likely be new.  The new partitions with glass doors will also have fixed windows into the large study/lounge area, thus allowing for shared natural lighting, as well as mitigating any potential small-scale sensation within the new rooms.  These new rooms will provide the necessary private spaces for meetings and study functions with flexible, scheduled usage.


At the lower level, the community room will continue to serve as a multi-purpose space for meetings, events, and presentations.  The existing kitchenette will be upgraded with new cabinets, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker.  Chairs and other miscellaneous elements will be stored within the adjacent newly converted storage space (old circular stairway).  New folding stackable chairs are also planned.  In addition, the double wood doors to the lobby will be replaced with new double glass doors.  There is also potential for the Town of Haddam to utilize the community room for evening meetings.  This can be achieved by utilizing one of the existing door openings to the parking lot.  Replacing this existing door with a new glass door would provide a point of entry.  In turn, there is an existing corridor that leads directly into the community room.  The ability to close off the remaining library would accommodate security needs.


The old book nook sales area will be converted into a new teen study/lounge.  It will house a new computer station along with re-located lounge chairs.  A new glass door with sidelight will be added, providing direct access from the center lobby area.  There will also be a new partition with central double glass doors, flanked by glass panels, separating the teen study/lounge from the community room.  This will provide separation of functions, sound control, as well as the ability to accommodate flexible use of the adjacent community room for specific programmed events.


The children’s library will be reconfigured in order to create a new rejuvenated and creative environment.  A series of new curved book stacks designed with a serpentine layout and circular segments will help to dynamically and effectively establish a new spatial organization, as well as new circulation patterns.  In turn, the newly defined spaces will allow for the placement of various existing elements, including a round play table, Lego table, train table, play kitchen, and puppet theater.  In addition, new modular triangular tables for both arts and crafts, as well as for multi-functional study/play areas can be used together or separated into smaller clusters.  The exterior-arc wall niche will serve as a lounge space for parents with new furniture.  This location provides ample sight lines into the adjacent study/play areas.  Furthermore, a swivel nursing chair will be placed within a semi-private corner area, adjacent to an exterior window.  New double glass doors to the lobby will be added.  Furthermore, in order to accommodate a new inviting entry at the children’s library, the other existing door off the parking lot will be replaced with a new glass door and large adjacent window.  A new vestibule space will serve as a transition space with bulletin information for changing programs.


The existing glass partition at the circulation desk will be removed and a new partition will be added, slightly shifted in position so that it will now include the preparation work table as part of the circulation desk area.  This new arrangement will optimize the functioning of the space and a new public printer will also be added.  The adjacent niche, accommodating four computer stations, will be used by parents as their children study/play in their space, or by teens that may need to do study/research.  Within the technical services area, the center storage shelf system will be re-arranged for better functioning, along with a designated space for cart storage.  The existing work station will remain within the exterior-arc niche.  A new storage closet will also be added adjacent to the book preparation table.  These modifications will help to optimize the functions and work flow.


At the rear stair, a new paint scheme will be implemented to enliven the access between levels with a dynamic, organic theme using circular/arced graphics.  In addition, the wall and ceiling areas will be re-painted, along with a new vinyl tile floor.  In terms of all interior spaces, the goal is to repaint and to re-carpet.


The next steps will involve the Library Planning Committee and the Board of Trustees with studying means for implementation, timing, potential phasing, preparation of architectural construction documents, and other factors.  In essence, these modifications will help to rejuvenate the Brainerd Memorial Library and to set the pathway for its next chapter serving the community of the Town of Haddam.