I hear that the Rockport library folks are thinking of moving it out of its current quarters and into a new building on the former RES site on West Street. They want to build a 14,000 foot structure which will cost around $5 million, a structure larger than the Camden or the Rockland library.
Why do we need this? Who will pay for it? Is there no way to improve the library we have in such a way to meet community needs?
While I am a lifelong library lover, and have always admired the Rockport Library, it seems to me that in the Internet era, libraries are solutions in search of problems. The part of our population accustomed to getting its information and entertainment from books is aging. The younger folk have found that the Internet can satisfy both needs in most cases.
I do not think libraries should be closed, and I am sorry to hear that the Camden Hills Regional High School library has suffered that fate, even if disuse was the cause. (And if it was, what does that tell us about the future of libraries?) But libraries do much more for communities than provide reading material. They are social and community centers. And I know the Rockport Library fulfills that mission well. But I do not understand why a new, far larger building is needed.
The library director says the current building is too small and I'm sure she's right. She says it can't be enlarged any more. About that, I'm not so sure. A second story probably could be added, if it's really needed, no doubt for 1/10 the cost of that giant new structure proposed for West Street. This would preserve everything we love about the library and give it the community rooms, restrooms and reading rooms we're told it needs.
And oh yes, the community rooms. I'm confused about them too. Don't we have the Rockport Opera House, the Selectman's room and Union Hall within walking distance of the library? Couldn't the library use one of these venues — right now — for its community events and programs? There's also the art museum across the street. We have a remarkable number of resources for our size. Do we really need more? Do we really want to tear down one we already have?
It's not just the loss of our current library that concerns me.
It's the cost of the new one. Where are we going to get $5 million. A bond issue? A few generous donors? If we are able to raise $5 million for the community, is a new library the best possible use for it?
I'm also perplexed by the proposed size of the building. With half the population of Camden and less than half that of Rockland, do we need a library bigger than either? I know we're a well-educated, book-reading and book-loving community, but can't the same be said of our neighbors — and aren't their libraries quite adequate for their needs? If the proposed structure were a bit more modest, it might not raise so many questions.
The questions I've raised here need to be answered, I think, before any more steps are taken, before any more money is spent. This is an issue in which the entire community should be involved and its voice be heard.
I pass the Rockport Library at least once a day and looking at it always makes me smile. What a charming building, what a lovely setting, how convenient for the people who live in the village. It fits us as though it was made for us, which, of course, it was.