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Minot-Sleeper Library Charrette generates excitement


November 17, 2010
BRISTOL—There was a full house this past Saturday in the meeting room of the Bristol Fire Department, as the Trustees of the Minot Sleeper Library held a library design charrette with architect David King.

For the Trustees, Barbara Greenwood welcomed the large crowd to the afternoon event and introduced King, who facilitated the far-ranging discussion to follow.

Greenwood said that she was personally very excited about the new plans for a one-story addition to the existing Minot Sleeper Library.

Previous plans for an expansion of the library facility entailed a two-story addition out the back of the existing building. However, this plan was narrowly defeated at last year's Town Meeting, when it failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed for a bond vote to pass.

Subsequently, the Trustees have gone back to the drawing board, taking in a number of new considerations, including recent flood-plain regulations that impact the library property, located on the banks of the Newfound River, as well as the recent acquisition of adjacent land, formerly the site of the Premium Glass Building, allowing for expansion out the side of the existing library, rather than the back.

The so-called "library annex" building on that site has been demolished in recent weeks to make way for whatever the future will bring.

"The point of this meeting is to show you the process that we have been going through as we approach the schematic design phase for the new library, and to get your feedback," explained King. "We envision a new plan that is a little smaller than the previous plan and less expensive, but still one that makes a lot of sense for the library and the town."

The conceptual design for the addition, unveiled at the charrette, shows a 3,500-square-foot addition, all on one floor, with a separate children's room, a young adult area, a computer area that at least doubles current capacity, and a courtyard that can be used for outdoor programs in good weather.

The historic existing Minot Sleeper Library will be repurposed as a community meeting room, with mechanicals and storage in the basement, so that all services can be located in the first floor of the new building. The entire first floor will be handicapped accessible, and no elevator will be required in this latest plan, considerably reducing anticipated costs.

King explained that the plans are constrained by a number of significant factors, including proximity to the Newfound River and restrictions that are part of adding onto a building that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The new addition will need to complement the graceful brick Victorian "Queen Anne" style original library, with its beautifully curved "chapel" windows, without copying the existing style.

Participants at Saturday's charrette said that they are hoping for an addition that successfully "echoes" the lines and materials used in the original library without confusing where the old building stops and the new addition begins.

Considerable discussion was given to issues of safety for children, an important concern raised at the meeting. It was suggested that the courtyard coming off the children's room be fenced or hedged in to protect kids from wandering off or into the street.

The Minot Sleeper is well known for its excellent children's services and programs, but King said that young adults are another big priority for the new library. He envisions an informal study area especially for them that will perhaps resemble a "café," with comfortable seating but "without all the dirty coffee cups" strewn about.

"You really want to hold on to your young adults in the library, because if they aren't in the library during their teen years, they often they don't come back until they are bringing their own small children with them," said King.

Other issues of interest included the desire to provide adequate space for the many people who depend upon the library for reliable wireless coverage when using their personal laptop computers. It was noted that at present, patrons are often observed working on their laptops while sitting in their parked cars surrounding the library because there is not enough space for them inside the building.

A lot of excitement was generated by the discussion of possible uses of alternative energy in the new building. While all options are being investigated and everything is on the table at this point, King indicated that he has some hope of being able to use geothermal heating and cooling in the new building. He explained that with current federal tax credits and other incentives, it can make a lot of economic sense to consider renewables in the plans. He suggested that the Trustees may ultimately decide to pursue some form of Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification for the project, or at least follow LEED guidelines for design and construction.

"There are many different levels of LEED standard construction," explained King. "It doesn't mean that the building will be more expensive. It's just a different way of thinking. We want to use the most sustainable materials and apply common sense rules in the approach we take. The important thing is that you want it to be a 100-year building, not one that in 20 years people are not going to want anymore. That's not efficient."

Greenwood closed the afternoon session by encouraging library patrons and residents to stay involved with the process.

"Be prepared for other meetings like this as we move forward, because your input is very important to make sure that we get a building that we can afford, and that will support or needs for a long time into the future," said Greenwood.

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