Politicians and citizens, librarians and state officials - all were in Chilmark Wednesday afternoon to attend the groundbreaking for the $2.1 million public library renovation project. But it was the children in attendance who stole the show.
The gala event hit its highest note when youngsters from the nearby Chilmark School sang the Kathryn Stewart song Chilmark, Here's to You. When they finished, they threw their coats into the air in a celebration as more than 50 onlookers joined in clapping their hands.
All gathered near the main doorway to the old library, awaiting a formal groundbreaking with freshly painted commemorative shovels. Among those present were state Sen. Robert O'Leary and and state Rep. Eric Turkington, who joined Edward L. Bertorelli, chairman of the board of state library commissioners, in praising both the project and the community that supported it.
"The congratulations belongs to you," said Senator O'Leary.
Mr. Turkington told the gathering that Chilmarkers have always had a strong reputation for involvement when it comes to public buildings. "We followed you when you designed your new school," he said, as the audience laughed.
"I've never seen such a place where there is so much input," he said. "You can't have too good a library.
"We all don't want to change Chilmark," Mr. Turkington added, but suggested that in 100 years the community will look back and cherish this library and the leadership that built it.
Norman Freed, chairman of the library trustees, spoke of the value of having many people working together in partnership. "We are celebrating many things," he said. "First thing is the fact that we arrived at this date and the ceremony. The second part is the partnership that goes back three or four years."
Mr. Freed gave credit to the senator and representative and thanked local selectmen, noting also that it was "the Chilmark voters [who] pushed for the final amount needed to put this project forward." He added that 30,000 books from the library already had been moved to the old Menemsha School through the efforts of many volunteers.
Warren Doty, chairman of the board of selectmen and a member of the building committee, praised the efforts of many. But he reserved special praise for Mr. Freed, for donating hundreds of hours to the project.
Library director Catherine Thompson spoke of a new beginning for an old library. "Our community has seen centuries of farming and fishing, of tradition and change," she said. "The library has been a part of Chilmark's history for 120 years.
"Spring is just two weeks away and spring is the time of new beginnings in the annual cycle of seasons," Ms. Thompson added. "Let us welcome this time of growth."
After the ceremony, friends gathered and sipped cider and ate treats.
Deborah Durland, architect for the project, told the Gazette the first significant step will be to move the old 1790 farmhouse that represents the oldest part of the library. The building will be lifted and moved off the foundation so work crews can dig a new cellar underneath, after which substantial repairs will be made to the old building floor.
The portion of the building that currently houses the children's room will be torn down.
Last month, some design changes were made to meet the concerns of some town officials. Mr. Freed said that Roland Kluver, an architect who resides in town, made a few suggestions regarding the proposed flat roof. "The roof will now slope off toward State Road," Mr. Freed said - a change supported by selectmen at their meeting last week.
Barry Gillogly of Oak Bluffs, who along with Paula Slade is one of the general contractors, said he is especially pleased to be working on an Island project funded partially by the state, to the tune of $1,101,880. It means money spent on this project will be kept on the Island, he said.
Joe Gervais, an insurance agent who provided the necessary bond to the contractor, said this was a big moment. "I have been on the Island for 16 years and I have never seen a state-funded project get awarded to an Island general contractor."
John E. Arnold, a state library commissioner, said the Chilmark library project was an easy one to support from the state level and recalled how the board members were impressed by Chilmark's downtown campus.
"Libraries should be the centerpiece in the community," he said.
Given the planned library's location and proximity to the elementary school and community center, that will certainly be the case in Chilmark.