Some bricks are etched with just one name, others an entire family tree. Some offer words of wisdom, and others words of gratitude.
One brick simply says The Library Opens the Door to the World.
It’s hard to walk the path to the newly renovated and expanded West Tisbury Free Public Library and not glance down to read these missives. There are hundreds, each a testament to the community effort that built the library, which opens its freshly painted doors with a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting on Saturday, March 22.
“Watching it go through this whole process...and then actually being able to step into a building is unbelievable,” library director Beth Kramer said last Friday.
The road to the new library began four years ago, when the Friends of the West Tisbury Library embarked on a fundraising campaign to apply for a state grant. The town ultimately received the $3 million dollar grant, supported in its effort by $1.5 million from the town and another $1.87 million raised by the West Tisbury Library Foundation’s capital campaign. The entire project cost $6.2 million. West Tisbury voters will be asked for a final $40,000 at this year’s annual town meeting.
The library staff began moving books from the small temporary headquarters on Cournoyer Road last week, but there’s still a lot to be done before the grand opening. The Cournoyer location closes today, March 11, at 6 p.m. so the staff can be fully engaged with the move-in process. Books and DVDs can be returned to other Island locations, children’s librarian Nelia Decker said, or people can just hang on to them.
There’s no exact count for how many books are making the move into their new home. The catalog took up seven storage units at the airport office park, plus the basement of the Cournoyer library. Last Monday, volunteers and staffers started the unpacking process, and by Friday tall stacks of flattened boxes lined the spacious entryway to the new building.
From the outside, the faÃ§ade of the library doesn’t look much different from its predecessor. But inside, past the coat room, the book drop and the bathrooms (complete with composting toilets, part of the plan to make the new library LEED-certified), the once-tiny building unfolds into a spacious open floor plan. At nearly 12,000 square feet, the library is more than twice the size of its former 5,600 square foot self.
“I think the architects really listened to what the community wanted,” Ms. Kramer said.
Ouden-Ellos, a Boston-based firm, designed a space that pays homage to the existing structure originally designed by West Tisbury architect Ben Moore — the exposed pine beams, the familiar cupola still intact atop the entryway. But the fully wired building, with its largely unseen green systems making the library as energy-efficient as possible, is intended to be flexible enough to meet the needs of the community for years to come.
Step into the high-ceilinged lobby with its polished pine floors, and turn right to enter the new program room, located where the old children’s room was. The room is situated so it and the lobby can be cordoned off from the book stacks and used even when the library is closed. Just about anything goes in the program room — film screenings, yoga classes, children’s activities, musical performances.
“It’s going to be a great room,” Ms. Kramer said. “Al Shackman and Dan Waters were here last week checking out the acoustics and they approved it.”
The room is also built to display artwork. Tapestries by Julia Mitchell will be the first pieces hung.
A kitchen separates the program room from the children’s area, where tall south-facing windows let natural light shine onto the bright green rubber floor and the low kid-friendly shelves. After the grand opening, artist Linda Carnegie, who created the vibrant murals of the old children’s room, will adorn the walls with new paintings, thanks to a $3,000 grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council.
There are huge red beanbags and small blue footstools and a large egg-shaped reading nook called Barney “just because it’s purple,” Ms. Decker said. Conveniently, Barney matches the purple shelving units, despite being bought before anyone knew what the library’s color scheme would be. The colors were selected by commercial and industrial designer Linda Hughes.
The children’s room and the program room both open onto a long porch made of mahogany that faces the Field Gallery. Adirondack chairs will soon take up residence on the porch. Ms. Decker added that it’s perfect for doing crafts in the summer. The portion of the porch outside the children’s room is shaded.
“My absolute favorite moment in this project so far was with Nelia when she first came into the children’s wing [after] that tiny, tiny space she had in the basement...to watch her stand in this space for the first time and just see it come to fruition like that just blew me away,” Ms. Kramer said.
The high ceilings sprayed with sound insulating material cushion the rest of the library from the often noisier children’s side. Outside the children’s room a wide wooden staircase lit by six skylights descends to the stacks, where the purple shelving is complemented by the purple of the rubber floor. There’s a staff room, study room, and a conference room that holds the Vineyard collection, once confined to a cabinet in the old building. The new space for the collection is about five times as large as before.
In the old building, teens used to hang out in the stacks “because there was nowhere for them to be,” Ms. Decker said. That’s no longer the case. At the west end of the downstairs is a teen room complete with study area and huge beanbags. “One of our pride and joys,” Ms. Decker said. A patio will be installed outside of the room after the grand opening.
The lower level of the library, though technically below ground, is nevertheless well lit. The area around the basement level was fully excavated, and windows line the east side of the level. Once landscaping takes place outside, the east side will feature “a little hill with plants and a stone patio for people to sit on,” Ms. Decker said.
“We really wanted a connection between outside and inside,” she said. Gardens will be planted in the backyard, and the Little Alley’s playhouse was moved to just beyond the mahogany porch.
The focal point as you look back up the staircase is a cutaway in the wooden wall, which will hold another Julia Mitchell tapestry, illuminated in its nook by two gallery lights. Turn left at the tapestry and head to the new books section, where there are also several shelves of “glades.”
“That’s where you have all the cookbooks in one place, all the gardening books in one place, certain sections that people love,” Ms. Decker said. It’s a break from the Dewey decimal system, but is ultimately intended to offer the most convenience for visitors.
Floor-to-ceiling shelves for DVDs line the far wall, opposite the magazine section.
When the library staff sat down during the design process to devise the new building, they went room by room calculating how much shelf space was needed. They measured how much linear feet the current book and DVD collection took up, weeding through materials as they went, and tried to jump into the future to determine how the collection might change.
“We have plenty of room, but not too much,” Ms. Decker summed up. And just as important, she said, “We have lots of room for people, which is what we really wanted to have.”
The West Tisbury Free Public Library ribbon-cutting ceremony begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 22.