The Library Building Committee met Jan. 28 at the Rockport Town Office to discuss plans for book shelving, furnishings and room dedications, all factors in finalizing design of the new Rockport Public Library. The group also heard a presentation by interior designer Nadine Cole, who brought preliminary floorplans, as well as photographs and price estimates for various furniture options.
Committee members in attendance were Ann Filley, Richard Anderson, Mark Van Baalen, library director Ben Blackmon and Select Board liason Doug Cole, as well as the project’s architect, Steve Smith.
Placement of books
The discussion focused primarily on the first floor of the library, where the library’s collection of fiction, nonfiction, children’s, and young adult books will be displayed; also on that level will be staff offices, the Marine Room and a media room.
Committee members said that they had hoped that all of the bookshelves would be located on this level, and that only books in “dark storage” would be shelved in the lower level, where much of the facility’s programming would take place.
Many of the bookshelves (stacks) on the first floor are 84 inches, or seven-shelves high. Designer Nadine Cole said that this was necessary to keep as much of the already pared-down collection on display as possible.
Filley proposed that some shelving in the fiction area be reduced to six-shelf units in order to preserve natural light. Cole said that some overflow from the lowered shelves could be placed on moveable shelves, which could be rearranged as needed.
Anderson said that, in a discussion with Blackmon, he learned that new libraries typically get a boost in new patronage of 15 to 30 percent. He said that the first impression new visitors to the facility should have is one of “open and airy space,” rather than one which is crowded by bookshelves.
“I don’t think people are going to come in and say ‘wow, you don’t have enough books here,’” he said. “I think that to err on the side of how many books we can put up here isn’t the right thing to do.”
Filley said the size of the stacks had already been reduced, and that although people visit a library for a number of reasons, many go to borrow books and that if that should change, the stacks could be rearranged as needed.
“I understand what [Anderson] is saying, and indeed I’m a fan of space, but to recall [Town Manager] Bill Post’s words, this isn’t a coffee shop either, this is a library, and as a compromise I think the idea of moveable shelves does that,” said Doug Cole.
Smith said that there is currently 3,000 feet of linear shelving represented in the most currently floor plan for the library. Blackmon said that the existing shelving at the library’s temporary location may be reused for books, which will be in “dark storage” or not on display to the public because of their less attractive design.
Filley said the new shelving is expected to cost $47,000, plus $27,500 for end-panels, for a total of approximately $75,000.
Nadine Cole presented a number of chair and sofa or ‘loveseat’ options for reading rooms, media areas and the children’s room. The majority of these products were from the manufacturer JSI. She said the goal for the interior space was “New England rural library,” although Van Baalen said he found some of the designs “modern Danish.”
The group agreed on a number of seating options, including 80 high-density stacking chairs and a “pirouette”-style table which can be flipped on its end and rolled away for convenience. For upholstered options, such as the armchairs and sofas, the group asked Cole if the styles were available in the colors already selected for the library’s carpeting, which are primarily teal, chartreuse and neutral.
Other furnishings presented to the committee were beanbag chairs and stackable floor cushions to be used by children. A design element at the center of the library near the entryway of the will be two long benches, opposite one another, with bookshelves placed behind them. A furniture piece which has yet to be sourced is the table for the Marine Room.
In the previous library, the Marine Room had long wooden table, and the group hopes to have a similar piece in the new library.
Doug Cole pointed out that there are still a number of large, wooden tables from the previous library at the temporary location on Route 1, and the group also discussed the option of reaching out to a local woodworker to build a table for them.
Filley said that a hypothetical estimate for the furniture costs is between $60,000 and $75,000; Nadine Cole said that a deposit on the furniture would need to be made by late February, early March. This money is expected to be raised by the Rockport Library Foundation. Other contributing costs will be fixtures and electronics such as computers
An aspect popular with visitors to the previous library was the Marine Room, a room dedicated to books, and even furnishings, which paid homage to Rockport’s history as a fishing community and its seaside locale.
The Marine Room at the new library is expected to evoke a similar feel, and will consist of a long table surrounded by chairs and bookshelves. One wall of the room will feature a row of curved windows overlooking Russell Ave.
Although the previous library had a room dedicated to former librarian Marge Dodge, there are no plans yet to continue this recognition.
At the Jan. 28 meeting the group heard from Pat Messler, whose donation to the project earned naming rights for an area of the library as yet to be determined. She said it was her intention to make a dedication to Mary Louise Curtis Bok, and brought with her a portrait of Bok. The Limerock Street site where the library stands was given by Bok to the town with the provision that the land only be used for a library.
The Library Building Committee plans to meet in February to discuss furniture costs and deliver a report to the Rockport Library Foundation.
Reach Louis Bettcher at firstname.lastname@example.org; 207-706-6657