BRATTLEBORO—Within the next couple of years, patrons of Brooks Memorial Library might have the option of sipping a coffee while reading their books.
A coffee bar along the front east glass wall of the main floor was one of many renovations revealed by retiring Library Director Jerry Carbone to a full house of patrons and trustees on Oct. 29.
Patrons use libraries differently from the way they did when the library was built in 1967, Carbone said.
Some of the proposed modifications will reflect these new uses, like reducing the size of the reference area because more information is available digitally. Or altering the main reading area to accommodate the greater use of mobile technology.
According to Carbone and statements made in the Space Planning Study by Greenberg Associates Architects from Putney, the library’s building needed modifications to “improve efficiency, create a more comfortable environment, and respond to changing patterns of use by Library patrons.”
“It’s not a big change,” he said. “But it will be change enough.”
Reconfiguring the library
Ronald Read’s $1.2 million bequest to Brooks Memorial Library is helping to fund the construction. GPI Construction Inc., compiled the project’s estimates. It estimates phase one will cost $90,462; phase two, $50,758.
The timing of the unexpected bequest coincides with capital project work that the library scheduled for 2017, Carbone said. The 2017 work will overhaul the building’s heating and other mechanical systems.
Along with the café — “Many libraries are doing that, and there are pros and cons to that idea,” Carbone said — alterations to the library’s main floor include creating much-needed storage.
Plans also include moving the reference desk to a more prominent area, creating a small meeting room, and installing an accessible bathroom. Currently, the library does not have a bathroom on its main floor.
The small group meeting room, special collections, art storage, and study area on the mezzanine level will be reconfigured to use space more efficiently.
The selves of young-adult books on the main level will move to a new young-adult room on the second floor near the children’s room.
The children’s room and technology room will also receive some modifications, and a storage area will be added to the staff room.
‘Beautiful example’ of international style
Architect Chip Greenberg described working with library staff, trustees, and patrons as a pleasure.
He said the library, was “beautiful example” of the International Style of architecture — think flat roof, glass wall, exposed brick.
The mix of building materials are visible, like the brick, metal, and glass. Yet, the building remains elegant, he said.
After Carbone explained the library’s changes around technology, like fewer reference books and more online databases, an audience member asked, “Will there still be books?”
“I think so,” Carbone said.
According to Carbone, the number of digital books being read has dropped after an initial surge of popularity. People have started to find their reading habits balanced between reading some things digitally and some things on paper.
“We’ll be in a world of books for a while,” he said.
Another audience member asked how the library planned to monitor people who are homeless and stay all day in the building.
Carbone answered, “We’re a public library. We’re an open library.”
“People come here for safety, for warmth,” he continued. “We also have a behavior code and we go by the behavior, not the person.”
Work on the plans started in the spring with the architects, Library Trustees, staff, and a few members of the public who had volunteered to participate.
‘An ending and a beginning’
“We think we have a pretty good plan,” Carbone said to the audience. “What do you think?”
The audience applauded.
While the audience liked the proposed plans, Carbone added that some details, like timeline, are on hold.
The project is self-funded, but will still need to go before the Selectboard and Representative Town Meeting, he said.
Carbone, who officially steps down as director Dec. 18, said that his successor will champion the renovation project. Therefore, the schematics and plans could change once “she” is on board.
“She?” echoed a few audience members.
“Oops,” answered Carbone.
While the library has made an offer to a preferred candidate, that candidate had yet to officially accept as of that night.
“It’s an ending and a beginning,” he said. “And I’m happy to leave the library in such great shape.”