Edgartown Library expansion needs your comments, and your help

To the Editor:

As a concerned Edgartown resident, I would like to urge voters to speak up in support of our wonderful Edgartown Public Library. I will explain.

I have served on the board of the Edgartown Library Foundation, a volunteer, nonprofit organization, for the past six years. The library trustees originally developed plans for a 21,000-square foot library to include our present Carnegie building. Voters approved the town’s purchase of the adjacent Warren House property, providing room for the expansion, and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners committed to pay 25 percent of the construction costs. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in raising enough funds for the balance of the project.

This past spring, the selectmen, in cooperation with the library trustees, formed a building design committee. The committee was asked to evaluate two sites for an expanded library: 1) renovation and expansion of our present Carnegie building, utilizing the Warren House property; and 2) renovation of the Union School building on West Tisbury Road.

The building design committee has accomplished a lot in six months. They defined the programs and services of the library, and determined that a building of 15,000 square feet would be appropriate for the public areas, books, computers, space for teens and children, historical materials, meeting rooms, and the mechanics needed to run a library. They hired a project manager and have found an architect. The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the selectmen for approval very soon.

Next, they would submit a new grant application in January. The good news is that this new grant would pay about 50 percent of the construction costs. Edgartown voters would be asked to approve the design at the April 2011 annual town meeting.

Initial, very rough, estimates indicate that, in addition to the debt for the Warren House property, our portion of the costs might be between $2 million and $3 million, or roughly $30 per year for the average taxpayer (this amount would decrease each year as the debt is reduced).

My concern is that, at a recent meeting, the building design committee seemed hesitant to ask the Edgartown voters for the funds. It is good that the members are keeping the taxpayers in mind and that they are trying to keep costs down. But now they are considering limiting the expansion to 10,000 square feet, which would give the people of Edgartown a very inadequate library space. This is actually little more space than the present library.

The foundation has raised more than $1 million in cash and pledges in the previous capital campaign. Donors will be encouraged to fulfill their pledges once a new plan is brought forth.

Edgartown has been talking about the additional space needs of our library for the past 23 years. We desperately need to act now. Do you care about our library? Are you willing to pay for a new library? Do you have a location preference? Please, let the committee know your thoughts. It is very important that they know what the voters are thinking in order to make recommendations that will be supported.

The building design committee holds public meetings nearly every week at the library. Meeting notices are posted in advance. Comments for the building design committee may be emailed to director@edgartownlibrary.org or write to the committee c/o P.O. Box 5249, Edgartown.

Anne M. Vose

Edgartown