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Pease Public Library makes pitch for expansion

February 21, 2010
PLYMOUTH — Pease Public Library has long been an intricate part of the Plymouth community, and is now making an effort to meet the growing needs of its patrons with a project to expand and renovate its facilities in the coming year.

Library trustees and Director Katherine Hillier have presented the details of the expansion project, emphasizing the library's increase in use as the strain on its means becomes more and more apparent. Whether the project will go forward or not is up to the voters of Plymouth, however, as it will be one of several important articles to be decided on at the Town Elections on Wednesday, March 10.

Pease Public Library opened in 1991, built with funds bequeathed to the Young Ladies Library Association by Charlotte Pease. The 6,000 square foot facility overlooking downtown Plymouth has been an intricate part of the town community, serving as a place of information, entertainment, social and informative gathering and many other functions.

As the library's services grew though, so too did the need for space. Since 1995, the library has seen patron visit double to nearly 45,000 in 2008, with over 73,000 materials borrowed. The collection itself has expanded from about 20,000 in the mid-90's to more than 33,000 books, movies and other public materials this past year. With the addition of computers and internet, the library saw more than 4,000 hours of public computer usage in 2008, and plus a thousand users through the facility's wireless network. Library-sponsored programs for children and adults have also more than doubled, with 122 programs drawing over 2,600 visitors in 2008 alone.

The Rachel Keniston Community Room, located on the bottom floor of the library, also weathers heavy traffic, hosting 350 meetings and programs per year. Even with the large amount of programs the library is able to host, many for requests for usage cannot be met.

Library trustees have been moving forward with the project over the past several years. A Long Range Planning Committee was formed in 2002, leading to the recommendation and hiring of a space needs specialist, which echoed the need to expand the library's facilities. In 2008, a building committee was appointed to help guide the expansion project, while in town meetings, the voters also helped get the gears moving, approving an expenditure for planning in 2008 and $75,000 to go towards the project in 2009.

Samyn & D'Elia Architects have put together the designs for the expansion, which adds a total of 6,000 square feet to the existing building, with two new sections to each floor of the building. On the main floor, the addition on the eastern side of the building (facing South Main Street) will be used for a new children's section. As a contained area — complete with books, seating, computers, restroom and play area — the addition resolves a major safety issue with the current children's section, which is relatively open and poses a risk of children wandering into other parts of the building, including downstairs or onto the sidewalk outside.

An expansion at the north end of the floor (facing Highland Street) will become a browsing and seating area. Similar to the current arrangement at the back of the library, the expanded area greatly improves on the current seating arrangements, which allows up to only nine people at a time. Additionally, a reference and quiet study room has been added in the back of the library, creating a contained, out-of-the-way area for individuals as well as group gatherings.

Current main floor space will be reutilized for an expanded browsing and collections, relocation of the director and staff offices, a larger circulation desk and main floor bathrooms, a feature not currently available to the public.

The expansions will also add to the bottom floor, extending the library's community facilities. The expansion on the north end of the building will become the new community room, but instead of a single room can now be partitioned into two, thanks in part to the lack of beams which hinder options in the current community room.

With the community room moving into the expansion, the current downstairs space is opened up to additional uses. In addition to rooms for tutoring, group meetings and staff, a corner room will be dedicated to children's programming, particularly story time activities and others that may overcrowd the upstairs children's area.

The expansion on the east side of the building will expand the facilities for PB CAM, Plymouth's Community Cable Channels (3 and 20). The channel's current operating facilities have occupied a small, closet-like office since the mid-90s, but with the expansion will provide PB CAM not only with additional office space, but a production studio as well, making the station more accessible for its associates as well as better equipped to serve the community.

Also in the eastern portion of the lower floor is an expanded storage wing, replacing the corner closet currently used.

Also important to the changes is the entrance, which will move from the west side of the building (adjacent to Russell Street) to the south side, facing the parking lot. Additionally, the new elevator will be located at the entrance, allowing patrons to access the lower floor without having to enter the building and providing greater accessibility to handicapped patrons. Whereas the current lift is cramped, slow and has often discouraged users from going to the bottom floor, the elevator will be more accommodating, with its location and design making it more accessible and less daunting a task to use.

In all, the project is estimated to cost $1.8 million, but library trustees are working to minimize the impact on the town. Funds are already set aside in reserve for the project, while private fundraising efforts are already underway, which intent to increase their efforts once the project is approved by voters. The trustees have set a goal of $600,000 to be covered through reserved and privately raised funds, which in the case of a 10-year bond would relieve taxpayers of any burden for the first four years of the bond.

Pease Public Library was a valuable addition to the Plymouth community when first built nearly two decades ago, and while its value continues to increase with new programs, services and accommodations, so too does the need to ensure its facilities can continue to meet the expectations so many patrons and community members have placed in it.

The Plymouth Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10 at 7 p.m. in the Plymouth Elementary School gymnasium. Additional information on the library expansion, including a floor plan and feasibility report are available online at peasepubliclibrary.org.

Martin Lord & Osman
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