Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 5, 2012
Ribbon-cutting for library renovations calls for many scissors
Renovations to the exterior of the library restored the original entranceway; an elevator replaces the handicapped access ramp.
by Anne Berleant
After ten months of construction, the Witherle Memorial Library is ready to officially unveil its new addition, the new downstairs children’s room, and the general overhaul of its interior in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 11 at 11 a.m.
One (very) long ribbon will stretch around the entire building, said Director Anne Romans, with the public invited to participate in the ceremony. The library will provide children’s scissors, Romans said, but people may bring their own.
Maine State Librarian Linda Lord will participate, as will Valerie Osborn, Northern Maine District Coordinator.
While the ribbon cutting is set for next week, the children’s room has been in use for several weeks.
“People are loving the looks of it,” said Romans, adding that volunteers are being recruited to maintain the state standard of having an adult present at all times.
Upstairs, the work is nearly complete, and outside, landscaping is about to begin, Romans said. A use policy for the new downstairs meeting room is still being worked out, because the only exit is through the library, she added.
“Despite the noise, it was a fun experience,” she said of the renovation work. “It was like being an accordion; we would get squeezed, and [have to] move. It was a little dance we played with the construction crew.”
The library remained open during all phases of construction, except for one recent afternoon when carpet was installed.
Romans and Board of Trustees Chairman Margery Read give credit to builder Stephen Shea and his crew.
“Bob [Shea] made a big difference” as the interface between the library staff and work crew, said Romans. “Steve Shea gave a lot of attention to details in the expansion,” including designing a piece to hold a new 100-pound television set.
While construction took less than a year, the first permit application to the project finish took around five years. The approval process took “endless patience,” said Read. “We had to change the zoning [for parking] and go to endless meetings.” A disagreement over the boundary survey with the library’s School Street neighbor meant a five-month delay over what turned out to be a one-and-one-half inch discrepancy. “Things move at a snail’s pace in a small town,” Read said.
Public input into the design process resulted in the removal of a handicapped access ramp and the building’s original façade restored. An elevator is installed for access between the basement and first floors.
“Everyone’s been so concerned with the outside, but we did it for the inside, to maximize the space,” Read said. The library now has 75 percent more shelving space, she said.
But Read is “thrilled” with the new exterior, she said. “I think we paid a great tribute to the beauty of the building.”
The project came in under its $1 million budget, including new fixtures and furniture, Read said. Any remaining money, once the last touches are complete, will to go to the library’s capital fund.