"I was so surprised," said Catherine Thompson, director of the Chilmark Public Library. Ms. Thompson learned last Thursday that her library was the recipient of a state grant totaling $1,108,880 for expansion and renovation.
Ms. Thompson said the library trustees had applied in January to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. "I just hoped we'd make it to the waiting list," she said.
The library trustees and other town leaders have been working for years on an expansion plan. They are looking to begin construction of the $1.8-million project sometime in the fall.
"The project design includes a meeting room for 40 people, an improved children's room and areas for quiet reading and space for new technology," Ms. Thompson said. The community expressed its approval for the project last September at a special town meeting and again at an annual town meeting this spring.
Construction is expected to take 10 months; there are plans to relocate the library temporarily at the old Menemsha School.
Ms. Thompson has been library director since 1988, and discussion of the need for expansion at the library actually predates her tenure. "The first space needs study was done in 1985," Ms. Thompson said. The library was expanded in 1992 and 1993, but because of a lack of funding a number of ideas were left for another day. "The current plan addresses all of the needs that were written into the 1985 study," she said.
Norman Freed, chairman of the library trustees and chairman of the building committee, yesterday said: "We are all very excited."
"The Vineyard Haven library did this five years ago, but it took them three years to get the money. This is why we are so excited that we are getting the money right now," he said. "There won't be another round for five years."
Supporters of the Chilmark library expansion have worked for years to move this project forward. They have already raised $700,000 in private contributions; of that amount, one anonymous donor contributed $250,000.
Mr. Freed said: "A lot of people have worked pretty hard for this. This means more services to the public. The library is the town center. It is in the center of town, and there is no other place in town where so many people gather in the winter. In the winter, the library becomes such an important place. This is for the people of Chilmark. We will be able to bring so much more information together, and we'll be able to keep pace with information technology."
Mr. Freed concluded: "We will be able to offer the services and facilities we might not have dreamed of 10 years ago. Rural libraries now have the advantage. They are in a rural setting and you can have access to information available in the city of Boston."
Ms. Thompson said the good news isn't limited to her town. She said the state also announced Thursday that Oak Bluffs is now on the waiting list for library funds.