The Right Library for Rockport

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 9:00pm

At the polls this November, Rockport residents are being asked to commit to funding a new library building. A “yes” vote would endorse the currently proposed two-story design.

I am a strong supporter of our town’s library. However, I will be voting “N0” on the library ballot questions, for numerous reasons.

As an architect, I have reviewed the various designs presented to the Town, by the three architects to try their hand so far. None of these have proven to be right for Rockport. In response, on my own time, I have developed plans for a one-story alternative. This single-story alternative library design features the following advantages:

  1. Lower Initial Cost: While equaling (actually, slightly exceeding) the usable program areas for the library, this alternative measures 15 percent less in overall area, due to efficient layout. It also does not require an elevator, which is an expensive item, especially in a small building. This one-story alternative has been professionally estimated to cost one-half million dollars less to build.

  2. Lower Operating Cost: A one-story library can be run with fewer staff; you cannot have any floor open to the public without supervision – the proposed two-story scheme would require extra help to staff. Also, by eliminating an elevator, the alternative carries none of the associated annual inspection/maintenance costs, and longer internal service/replacement costs.
  3. Better Operation: Instead of being split into two remote areas, the one-story library plan can be run from a single circulation desk, with visual and physical access to the entire interior and doors. Library staff and patrons can interact easily and directly.
  4. Better Accessibility: Obviously, the alternative one-story library is easier for the mobility impaired, parents with young children, and staffers constantly moving quantities of books and other materials.
  5. More Environmentally Responsible: The one-story alternate is positioned on the site with an optimal orientation and sufficient roof area to support a generously-sized solar array, like our Town Office. (The current proposal cannot.) Additionally, the one-story alternative has been designed with extra-thick, super insulated walls without compromise to interior space; it is intended as a “Net Zero Energy” building (which eliminates utility costs for the taxpayer).
  6. More Appropriate Appearance: Rockport citizens have made clear they do not want a large, ostentatious new library. Images of the one-story alternative show a small, approachable community library that fits in with its immediate neighbors and the historic village architecture.
  7. Better Expansion Prospects: Not only does the one-story alternative accommodate the full library program comfortably on the site, there is also space for a potential 1,000 square foot expansion on that level, with ample natural light and direct connection to the inner flow. (The two-story scheme proposes future space in a windowless basement, which may not be feasible if there is bedrock present.)

The process of developing a much-needed replacement for the library has been underway for several years. A new library building will have a life expectancy of a century or so. Voting to approve the current proposal just to “get on with it” would be short sighted and irreversible, and would burden the Rockport taxpayer unnecessarily for many generations to come.

Instead of pushing a proposal that is costly and compromised, my opinion is that building the right library should be our goal.

Instead of “Let’s Build It”, I advocate “Let’s Get It Right” – and then build it. It is in that belief I will be voting “NO” on ballot questions 2 and 3, and if you agree that a less expensive and more suitable library is what we deserve, I urge you to join me.


John W. Priestley, III, AIA Architect, lives in Rockport