ROCKPORT — As the exterior of the new Rockport Public Library quickly takes shape on Limerock Street, passersby may wonder what the interior of the building will offer when its doors are open to the public.
Last week, a series of questions pertaining to shelf space, furnishings, room dedications and the anticipated aesthetic ‘feel’ of the library’s interior were sent by this reporter to the project’s interior designer, committee members and town officials. Floorplans and renderings were also requested.
These questions were sent to Ann Filley, chair of the Library Building Committee, Selectman Doug Cole, who serves as the Select Board’s liaison to the Building Committee and to interior designer Nadine Cole.
The questions were also sent to library director Ben Blackmon and Town Manager Bill Post.
The Library Building Committee is a group formed to oversee many of the interior finishes of the facility – working closely with Architect Stephen Smith and Interior Designer Cole as well as Librarian Ben Blackmon – then ultimately submitting their decisions to the Rockport Select Board for approval.
In November 2019, the committee heard a presentation from Nadine Cole that touched on color and carpeting selections for interior spaces, according to minutes from the meeting. A photograph of carpet and paint samples was included in these minutes, which are posted on the town website.
In response to questions: Doug Cole said, Jan. 9: “Thanks for your interest. I am forwarding this to Ben Blackmon and Ann Filley because they are much more familiar with this portion of the project and can get you the answers you need. From the 30,000 foot view, I can say that the building is coming along nicely, on schedule and on budget.”
“I was informed that the town manager, Bill Post, prefers that all communication regarding the library comes from the town,” said Filley Jan. 13.
Blackmon did not respond to the queries, and Designer Nadine Cole said that she would be able to provide information on the interior at the end of February.
Post provided answers to a number of these questions via email on Jan. 13, prior to a Select Board meeting the same evening which board members unanimously approved interior finishes recommended to them by the Building Committee. Visuals aids (color samples, renderings, etc.) were not provided in the meeting packet.
He explained that Nadine Cole’s fees are being paid by donors of the Rockport Library Foundation, the group of volunteers raising $2 million for the construction of the library ($1.5 million of the project is paid through bond funds authorized by Rockport taxpayers.) Phi Builders was chosen to construct the building.
“The vision of this space is to maintain the atmosphere of a welcoming and warm library, with spaces to read, spaces for library programming, updated technology, and a focus on shared community space and flexibility. The committee is confident that the look and feel of the interior finishes are in-line with a library that works well in the current environment as well as being sustainable in the future. Blues, creams and teal are the predominant color palate, with a touch of lively green in the children’s area,” said Post.
Initial floorplans for the building include a ‘Marine Room,’ a space which existed at the previous library on Limerock Street, although it is unclear if a room named for former librarian Marge Dodge will also carry over to the new facility. In 1994, the library was expanded to include a reading room overlooking the rear of the property, and was dedicated to Dodge for her many years of service.
“This was a wonderful way to honor Marge Dodge, who had been such a terrific librarian and advocate of the library for 30 years. We do know that there will be recognition for people that have had had a long legacy with the library, but at this time we do not have specifics to provide,” said Post.
Questions regarding shelf feet – shelving allocated to books – and a comparison of shelving in the former library and expected shelving in the new facility were also sent, as well as whether or not there were plans to expand the library’s existing collection of books.
“All of the books in the library’s collection will be on display,” said Post. “We are not planning on having any books in storage areas that are off limits to the public. The collection will continue to grow but there are no plans to invest heavily in expanding the collection. There will be more linear shelf feet in the new building. The amount varies by collection and should be sufficient to handle the planned growth for many years to come.”
Post said that Nadine Cole has been working with Blackmon to determine how much of the existing furniture and shelving at the library’s temporary location on Commercial Street will be reused, and which areas of the new library will require new furnishings and equipment. He said that a budget for furnishings and fixtures is expected to go before the Select Board at the end of January.
On Monday night, Jan. 13, Doug Cole and Denise Kennedy-Munger, both of whom serve on the Building Committee and attended the Nov. 12 meeting, recommended to their fellow Select Board members that they approve the aforementioned interior finishes, such as color and carpeting, and provided an update on fundraising and construction of the project.
“[Nadine Cole] has some pretty accent colors; mostly there is a neutral look to things but she’s got some nice moments of color. All of the materials that she has chosen, she has assured us, are of a quality and durability designed for a public building that will be used for many years. The materials are all within the expense allowance under the town’s contract with Phi Builders,” said Kennedy-Munger.
“And the [Library Building Committee] unanimously recommended approval of it, which means a lot, as well. I think that the way we had drafted the mission statement of this committee was that we as a board do not want to micro-manage does. We might wonder why we are approving something we haven’t even seen, but we’re happy I think that the committee unanimously approved it...but what we do want to maintain is that everything is in budget,” said board member Debra Hall.
“I keep hearing these rumors that we’re over budget and we’re behind schedule, neither of which is true although someone else can talk to the schedule better than I can. But I can assure you, we are within our budget. This Select Board has been very adamant about making sure this project is within the budget we approved and it is absolutely within the budget,” said Hall.
“And we are on schedule. It is so annoying to have people who don’t know what they are talking about and are ‘experts’ say we’re two months behind in construction. I’m over there a couple of times a week, highly involved in the process,” said Doug Cole.
Post added that weekly construction updates are provided to the town. The next meeting of the Rockport Select Board will be held Monday, Jan. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.