New and overdue, Edgartown library anticipates late winter opening

Library staff expect to begin moving from the century-old Carnegie Building into the new $11 million facility late in January.

New library director Lisa Sherman and her ten-year-old daughter Maisie stand in the doorway of the main conference room.

The director of the Edgartown Free Public Library said that if all goes as expected, work will begin next month on the move from the Carnegie building on North Water Street, the library’s home since 1914, to its new $11 million home on Robinson Way, adjacent to the Edgartown School.

The library is expected to open in late winter, almost one year later than was expected when officials broke ground in March 2014.

A series of construction delays related in part to last winter’s unseasonably large snowfall, delayed equipment delivery, and water filling the excavation site early on in construction set the project back.

In January 2014, Edgartown selectmen voted to accept a bid from Maron Construction to build the new library where the old town school was. Celia Imrey, a New York City–based architect and Edgartown resident, designed the new library.

Bright and airy

The new building nearing completion is spacious and overflowing with natural light. During a tour with The Times on Wednesday, new library director Lisa Sherman described the space as a “whole new canvas to work with.” Ms. Sherman, former director of the Aquinnah library, was named director of the Edgartown library in July.

The final touches are being added throughout the two-story building. Building certificates are being reviewed and signed off. Prominently missing are shelves and circulation desks. Those will be arriving soon.

In total, the library has nearly 40,000 items in its collection that will have to be moved. “We can’t wait to be on the other side of this,” Ms. Sherman said.

Ms. Sherman highlighted her three favorite things about the new building: the large children’s room, the community event room, and the private study rooms. All three features were either nonexistent or very small in the Carnegie building.

Overall, the atmosphere of the new building generates the most enthusiasm. “I’m so excited to have this space that is so bright and airy,” she said.

Ms. Sherman walked into the children’s room and pointed out where the new furniture would be: circulation desk near the entrance, kitchen on the far end, and computers toward the middle area.

The room is big, with orange and blue walls, three of which feature large windows and sweeping skylights. Shelves will be placed in the middle of the room. Along nearly half the length of one wall is a long bench. A carpet will be put down in front for storytimes.

The proximity to the Edgartown School, coupled with the huge new children’s space, will bring children’s programming and family events to the fore in the new location. Although there is some concern that an influx of children after school hours could lead some to treat the facility as a daycare, Ms. Sherman is optimistic and prefers to take a wait-and-see attitude about what the new patron traffic will look like. She said she’s been in contact with the Falmouth Public Library, which is also located right next to a school, and intends to speak with them about strategies.

“There’s so much opportunity to move in, live in this space, and to modify it. I can’t wait to be here and do things with the school,” she said.

The two-floor reading room will house the young-adult area on the first floor, the general collection on the second, and both levels, separated by a flight of stairs in the middle, will feature desks and workspaces, equipped with ample electrical outlets to charge laptops.

Ms. Sherman excitedly pointed out each space as an area where patrons can “get work done with a cup of coffee.”

As for immediate changes to the library, she said she expects to expand storytime offerings to be more age-specific. Currently, there is one storytime, but with the anticipated influx of young people, a more targeted approach will be necessary.

All other changes, such as potentially expanding hours, will have to come gradually, Ms. Sherman said.

More accessible

Library building committee chairman and selectman Michael Donaroma said despite the delays, the project remains on budget. “It’s taken longer, but our budget is still the same number as when we started,” Mr. Donaroma said.

Mr. Donaroma said the building committee, like Ms. Sherman, is also most excited about the new children’s room. “You almost don’t need to turn lights on,” he said.

The new location, in conjunction with updated space and technology, will make the library more accessible to elementary-age students. Expanded parking, in turn, will make the building more accessible to summer residents.

“We forget that the summer residents are a very big part of the town, and they couldn’t even get near the library because of the parking,” Mr. Donaroma said.

Strategic location

The decision to build a new library rather than update the Carnegie building had much to do with its cramped location and inadequate space. The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MLBC), which provided considerable funding, said that redoing or expanding the Carnegie site would not be beneficial for very long. The MLBC said it would not provide more than $5 million in grants if the library would have to be relocated again in the near future.

MLBC officials also raised numerous objections to earlier expansion plans on North Water Street that included limited parking and a number of architectural compromises needed to fit the library programs onto the North Water Street site. As a result, the library design committee went back to the drawing board.

Once the move is complete, the 100-year-old Carnegie building will be handed over to the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, which bought the building from the town for $1 in July. The trust plans to move its headquarters to the site and create a visitor’s center after extensive internal renovations to the building.