Rindge library renovation needs public support
"We're excited. We're hoping the town will support it. This is actually the culmination of a three-phase project that started in the mid-'90s, so it will put us in a good position for years to come," said Jim Qualey, a Library Trustee alternate.
The first phase, completed in 2001, cost about $300,000 and added space for adult and children's books and materials as well as an elevator that runs between the first and second floor, said Library Director Diane Gardenour. The second phase, completed in 2006, expanded the parking lot and improved the septic system and cost about $160,000.
The bulk of the $600,000 needed for this final phase would go towards installing fire suppression sprinklers throughout the building, Qualey said.
The project would also renovate and expand the third floor to create a 1,000-square-foot space, extend the elevator service to the third floor and add an additional staircase that would be up to current fire codes.
The third floor is only about 300 square feet and is not heated. The conditions have slightly faded the library's large collection of preserved animals that is stored on the third floor, but it remains an impressive collection, Gardenour said.
"Ours is a really wonderful collection. Lots of birds and mammals and things like that, everything from a humming bird to an eagle," Gardenour said. "It's up on the third floor where there is no heat so some of the birds and animals have lost some of their color, but it is still a wonderful collection."
All but one of the animals in the collection was collected in Rindge. It is a historical natural science exhibition the library would like to have the room to display in an easily accessible space, Qualey said.
"I think it's really interesting to go up there and see the animals," he said. "We don't go out and collect blue herons or bald eagles anymore; we just don't do things for that purpose typically."
Unfortunately right now, only those who can navigate the narrow and steeply-pitched staircase to the third floor can visit the collection, Qualey said. "The collection itself is irreplaceable," he said. "I think it's a really interesting collection and I think it deserves better access so more people can see it."
The third floor expansion would also create one or more meeting spaces on the third floor and additional room on the other floors for the library's expanding collection and for patrons.
"The heart of the argument is that the library is, despite the Internet, the library continues to be a very important resource for the town and the need we see to complete the library expansion is more space for patron use," Qualey said. "We think it will put us in a good position where we are using the building very effectively."
Library use has gone up 95 percent and the library's collection has increased 43 percent over the past 10 years, he said. If you calculated what it would have cost residents to buy books and other materials as opposed to borrowing them from the town library in 2012, the library saved patrons about $740,092, Qualey said.
"We want them to vote for it because we think it's a worthwhile expenditure of money, and of course the voters will decide," Qualey said.
There is only about $500 left in the current library capital reserve fund since about $100,000 was moved out by a past Town Meeting vote and went into the general fund, Gardenour said.
However, the Library Trustees have about $200,000 in donations and gifts to put towards the project and are currently working on a fundraising idea to support the project, Qualey said. "We're going to continue our efforts to find alternate sources other than taxation," he said.