New West Tisbury library design unveiled


The first look at design plans for a renovated West Tisbury Free Public Library reveals a project that would double the size of the existing building and feature energy-saving technology, at a total cost of between $5.1 and $5.5 million.

Boston-based architects Matthew Oudens and Conrad Ello presented the preliminary design plans to a standing room only crowd at a public forum Monday evening. The architects said that 7,000 square feet will be added to the building so that the total size will be 13, 200 square feet.

The building committee expects that half of the cost would be met by a Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) grant, a quarter of the cost raised from private donations, and quarter of the cost paid for by taxpayers.

The MBLC grant application process requires the application to be submitted by January 27, 2011. Library officials will be told if they are to receive a grant in June, 2011. Meanwhile, the West Tisbury Library Foundation capital campaign will be raising funds, and if both sources of funding are successful, the library plans to ask taxpayers to approve funding of its portion of the cost at the annual town meeting in April, 2012. Construction is expected to take a year and be completed by the spring of 2014.

To date architectural fees and other planning expenses have been paid for by the Friends of the Library.

The architects and library officials originally considered two potential sites for a larger library — the current location and town-owned land at Lambert’s Cove Road and State Road. Mr. Ello told The Times that the Lambert’s Cove site was eliminated for a number of reasons including the irregular shape of the parcel and the additional costs of needed improvements to the land.

Mr. Oudens said, “This site is the historic center of West Tisbury, it creates a community center. There is a pedestrian feel here with lots of cross traffic.”

The architects began the schematic design process with three alternatives and then concluded that an H-shaped plan best met the library’s needs. Details of the two-story H-shaped plan were shown to residents at the public forum Monday (available at

Mr. Ello said that when construction begins in 2013 the building will be closed to the public and library materials relocated during the construction process. The current center section of the library will be replaced and could be used as a temporary library during the construction process or sold.

“We are going to try to keep the character of this library as much as possible, but to build in the necessary upgrades it will be a pretty invasive project,” Mr. Oudens said.

The schematic design features a new entry porch with seating, a program room with seating for 70, a book sale staging room for the Friends, wireless computer technology and an outdoor reading garden. Expanded parking would be created along the north edge of the property to create the 40 unshared slots required by the MBLC. Currently the library shares 43 parking spaces with Howes House.

A renovated and enlarged library will be able to take advantage of the building’s southern orientation for use of solar technology and the design will reduce energy consumption by creating a tight envelope and installing four-ply glazed windows. Marc Rosenbaum, of South Mountain Company, serves as a green energy consultant to the project.

Monday night architect and solar energy consultant Kate Warner said she loved the whole plan but questioned the size.

“It is too large,” Ms. Warner said. “It is going to be the largest library on Martha’s Vineyard, why? Over time we are going to use books less and less.”

Chuck Hodgkinson, chairman of the Library Space Needs Committee, said that the West Tisbury library is the busiest on the Island and at the current 5,640 square feet the second smallest.

Library trustee Dan Waters said that the Aquinnah Library is 600 square feet, Edgartown 7,000, Chilmark 7,658, Tisbury 9,000 and Oak Bluffs 18,000.

Library Director Beth Kramer said that the MBLC rejected a preliminary plan for a smaller library because the grant specifically requires that the design have the flexibility to meet a community’s needs 20 years into the future. “The net square feet of this design is on the low-end of what they want to see,” she said.

Richard Knabel, chairman of the board of selectmen, said, “You have been stingy on storage space.”

Glenn Hearn and Tucker Hubbell endorsed the idea if possible of a basement where the design now calls for a crawl space.

Town building inspector Ernest Mendenhall asked. “How are you going to tastefully close up the front desk at night? Will there be a need for additional staffing?

Mrs. Kramer said that the library currently operates with one vacancy, and beyond filling that slot she saw no need for additional staff.

Town treasurer Kathy Logue, who served on the space needs committee, said, “I am very pleased with the plan. I like particularly how flexible it is.”

She added, “I am not seeing enough how this design envisions the change in technology that is inevitable in the next ten years, never mind the next 20 or 30 years. And I agree entirely with Kate. For the adults anyway, 90 percent of the action is happening in 15 percent of the space.”

Other comments included security concerns, the potential for excessive noise in the lobby, the need for hand rails in addition to the planned ramp for the disabled, creating unisex bathrooms, and eliminating humidity, and adding natural light to the lower level of the building.

Mr. Oudens said that the design is very preliminary and changes could be made after the MBLC approves the grant. “The MBLC is open to hearing arguments for change but those arguments are better made after we get the grant,” he said.