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Scituate library staff hopeful about long-awaited building plans

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 28, 2011 05:31 PM

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A side-view of the library from Central Park. The LEED certified building would include photo-voltaic panels on the roof.

Scituate Town Library Director Kathy Meeker sat by the floor-to-ceiling windows in the small teen section of the library, staring out at the open field which she hopes will be an expanded part of the building by 2014.

The $12 million renovation would include a two-floor expansion, a reconfiguration of most of the interior, new heating, lighting, roofing, parking lot, storage, and multiple study areas.

It’s a project that has been in the works since 2005, but according to Meeker, the work has only just begun.

Having recently finished a grant application process from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), which will pay for 43 percent, or $5 million, of the project costs, the library is now seeking the go-ahead on design plans from town meeting - a stipulation outlined in the grant process.

Scituate Library is one of 32 applicants applying for 10 grant spots, and there are no guarantees.

Even prior to the grant acceptance, getting town approval may prove tricky. The plans would be the prelude to a larger request for funding that would come up shortly after the grant gained acceptance.

According to Meeker, the town would need to commit $7 million to the project, of which the library hopes to raise $2 million. It’s money that, currently, is hard to come by.

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A woman looks at the library renovation plans, currently in the Children's Room at Scituate Town Library. Stop by to check out the proposed layout and more photos.

“When I started with this, I thought it was important to bring this forward and let the residents of Scituate decide,” Meeker said. “Timing wise it could be difficult, and we’ll be competing with other issues [and projects], but it had to be started.”

Despite a poor economy, looming seawall repairs, and shrinking budgets, Meeker felt there was no more time to wait on the library.

Countless other libraries that entered into the grant process in 2005 are just now coming online. Those that didn’t make it in that round have had to wait until 2010 to apply, and probably won’t be finished until 2014 if even accepted.

“That’s what made it real to me. If we don’t go for it this time, we’ll be waiting a long time,” Meeker said.

According to Meeker, the last time the library received updates was in 1999, with new paint, new wallpaper, a new upstairs carpet, and new upholstery.

Other than that, the building, built in 1978, is the way it was constructed – Kelly-green carpet splayed throughout the bottom floor like florescent grass, energy-inefficient windows structured as massive walls, an open room for the teen section, computers, fiction and non-fiction that often poses noisy problems.

These things, along with the heating, roofing, and lighting problems, aren’t new.

“I don’t want people to think this came out of nowhere,” Meeker said.

Already the project has endured $10,000 in a conditions study in 2005, and a $45,000 feasibility study in 2010.

At this stage, the proposal has undergone a design process with an architect and also received approval from both the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee for town meeting.

Although there are still multiple steps in the process, and notification on the grant won’t come until July, already Meeker is planning ahead.

“We hope it will bring more people, or the people who find it too noisy now will find comfortable, quiet places to sit. The children’s room will be on a separate level…the mother-daughter book club, they could go in this meeting room at night,” she explained.

In the meantime, the library is as busy as ever on a day-to-day basis, regardless of the space constraints or noise levels.

“I would like to say the whole staff is excited about the prospect of planning and carrying out such a hopeful project,” Meeker said. “Meanwhile, we’re busy, and we’ll be carrying out this rendition of the library as well as we possibly can.”

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