West Tisbury Library almost ready for readers

More than 1,100 boxes of books had to be re-shelved. — Photo by Tony Omer

The West Tisbury library is moving from its temporary location in North Tisbury,  back to its newly renovated and expanded $6 million building across from Alley’s Store in West Tisbury. The library is closed until the grand opening on Saturday, March 22, to allow time to move the collection from the temporary location and to give library employees and volunteers time to help set up the new library.

There appears to be little change in the new library when viewed from the front. It still looks remarkably similar to the old building constructed in 1993. The only readily apparent changes are new shingles, new windows, and a new roof. The entrance has been moved a little to the left, and there is a new unfinished and unlandscaped parking area. But on the inside the new 13,000-square-foot library has little in common with its former 5,640-square-foot self.

The many windows and a vaulted, cupola-capped ceiling in the opening lobby, more of a rotunda, allow sunlight to fill the spacious interior. The sun highlights the natural wood trim and hardwood floor on the main level. To the right is a community room for presentations, meetings, programs, lectures and films, and straight ahead right is the large children’s’ room.

The bookshelves throughout the library are a Vineyard purple. The children’s room has a light green rubberized tile floor that unexpectedly and somewhat mysteriously complements the shelving. Outside the children’s section is a large mahogany deck that faces the Maley sculpture garden next door. Half of the deck is covered with a roof.

There are offices, research areas, bathrooms, and a periodical room all on the main floor.

A long staircase descends through the middle of the library to an enlarged lower level that has no resemblance to the shelf-crammed basement of the old building. Instead there are meeting rooms, stacks, a young adult room, a section for health related books, utility rooms, including rooms for the composting toilet system, and unfinished storage areas.

The move

The process of moving back in is no easy task and requires at least as many hands as it took to move out before the renovation, according to Cornelia “Nelia” Decker, the children’s librarian and assistant to the librarian who is heading up the re-shelving. “We are lucky to have so many good volunteers,” she said.

If library director Beth Kramer is the commander in chief of West Tisbury library, then Ms. Decker is the field marshal. Last Thursday as Ms. Kramer was hosting a tour of the new building for Rosemary Waltos, library building consultant with the state board of library commissioners, Ms. Decker was directing a half dozen volunteers and a couple of library staffers who were painstakingly shelving books.

Most of the books, more than 1,100 boxes of them, were stored in six storage units at the airport during construction.

Ms. Decker said that determining where the books go is a fluid, changing process determined by a complex series of calculations that include many subjective considerations. The number of existing books and the linear feet of shelving in the old library were the starting points.

“We folded these figures into how much new space we have, the total possible shelving possibilities, and how we think the sections could best benefit residents of West Tisbury,” she said. “Beth and I go over details almost daily. We also take into account where we want to be in 20 years.

“We figured we would weed out the books that are out of date or ratty when we packed the books. We then looked at the space the architects designed. Then we figured out where the shelves would go and which collections might fit in those shelves by the size of the collection.”

Ms. Decker sees that the books are in the correct sections and in order. She assigns the volunteers places to work.

“We are taking the opportunity to go back through the shelves to weed out the out-of-date books as we check and recheck the order of the books,” she said. “It will take several passes to get everything straight.”

“We are also transferring some of our collection to a non-Dewey decimal system, a system more like a bookstore with books arranged by subject and within the subject either by title or by author.

The Dewey decimal system does not allow for variations that might serve a particular community like West Tisbury, Ms. Decker explained. “Where the Dewey system might have cookbooks arranged by country we will have a section for cookbooks, and a separate section for gardening and art, subjects we know West Tisbury patrons like to browse.

“The Dewey system is good for academic libraries. We are what is called a popular browsing library. I guess you could say we have a modified Dewey system. It’s also called Dewey lite.” Many of the non-fiction books will still be shelved according to the Dewey system, for example.

Ms. Decker said that the work of volunteers helping with the move has been invaluable. She singled out library employee Ginger Norton for going beyond the call of duty to take charge of the non-fiction stacks and two retired West Tisbury teachers, Martha Stackpole, second and third grade, and Martha Hubbell, kindergarten, who have spent days shelving books with which they had some familiarity in the children’s room. “It’s like visiting with old friends,” Ms. Hubbell said as she lifted several books from a large box, checking the spines for the information she needed to place them in the right spot on a shelf.

A mound of empty, flattened boxes almost four feet high, about four feet wide and almost 15 feet long took up much of the space outside the children’s room door in the lobby. “We create a pile of empty boxes like that almost every day,” Ms. Stackpole said with an obvious sense of pride.

The renovation-expansion project broke ground in December, 2012, and is only two months behind schedule, not including the landscaping that can’t be completed until after the winter thaw. The library was funded by $1.7 million raised from private donors by the West Tisbury library foundation, $1.5 million from the town and a state grant of $2.93 million.

Ms. Decker said everyone is invited to the grand opening on Saturday, March 22, at 10 am. The Dunkls will provide music and there will be refreshments. Work of West Tisbury artist Julia Mitchell will be the first art installation on display and Ms. Mitchell will give a presentation in the new community room on Sunday.