Reading Rainbow: Books in Boxes, Library Moves to New Space

By RACHEL KOVAC

Boxes litter the large meeting room of the new Oak Bluffs library on Pacific avenue. Marked carefully with numbers, each box is filled with books that will slowly make their way onto shelves in the days and weeks ahead.

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Labor Day marked the beginning of a massive project for librarians and volunteers, as they prepared to move entire contents of the town library from its former location on the corner of Circuit and Pennacook avenues to their new home on Pacific avenue, only one-third of a mile away.

The process is time consuming, as the books must be checked off so librarians know nothing has been lost or misplaced. Luckily, there is a master plan and a place for each book in this new 15,000 square foot building.

"We have a lot more books than people think we do," said Danguole Budris, the recently hired Oak Bluffs head librarian. "We had a lot of stuff in storage at the old building and everything was crunched together," she said.

This is just the beginning of a monthlong project that will culminate in the opening of a town library that will take its place as the largest free public library on the Vineyard. Library representatives do not have a firm date for when the building will be open, but they are hoping for the middle of October.

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For the sake of comparison, Chilmark's new library is 7,200 square feet and Vineyard Haven's expanded library is 9,000 square feet. The new children's library in Oak Bluffs is twice the size of the old library.

The library project dates back to 1995, when discussion first began to relocate the library building from its space in a former grocery store building on Circuit avenue. The library is the first new building since 1925 to be constructed on the town campus at the site of the old elementary school.

Decorated in a sunny Tuscan color palate of brick red, purple and yellow, the building is filled with light from large picture windows, littered with comfy chairs and boasts impressive new technology. Visitors to the library are invited through two entrances graced with benches and rocking chairs.

"It's a nod to the quaint quality of Oak Bluffs," said Karen Achille, building committee chairman. "That's what you do in Oak Bluffs - sit on porches."

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The first floor is home to the circulation desk, nonfiction and adult fiction collections, media, staff offices, computers and a meeting room.

The meeting room will play host to many of the town's regular meetings including the selectmen's meetings on Tuesday afternoons. The room can hold about 60 people and will also feature an exhibition area for local artists to display their work.

It also boasts another piece of the new technology the library has incorporated into its design - a screen that comes down from the ceiling with the flick of a switch.

"It's as up-to-date as yesterday," Mrs. Achille declared.

Also on the first floor are two quiet rooms, which Mrs. Achille calls a nod to the college days of working on group projects while trying not to disturb those around you. Each room has a table with chairs and data ports for computers.

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Upstairs is a different world. It houses not only reference material and about a dozen work cubicles, but also the historical room, the children's library and a young adult room.

Double doors open into the children's area keeping it private and quieter for those using the reference materials. The tables, chairs, circulation desk and shelving area are all geared to young children. The room is painted sunny yellow and has "browsing areas" for children to read alone or with parents. There are two adult rocking chairs and two child-sized rocking chairs.

Off to one side is a room for all of the children's programs including arts and crafts. The room holds lots of storage space, easily cleanable tables, a sink and linoleum floor so kids can glitter to their hearts content.

In a separate area, young adults have also been provided with their own space that will hold a book collection, computer, mixed multi-media equipment and large overstuffed armchairs to sink into and read. The room is specifically designed for children 12 to 16 years old.

Another highlight of the second floor is the historical room. It will hold archival material from both the library's collection and from the town historical commission in large glass-paneled, locked cabinets. There is a conference table for 12 people and a drop-down projection screen.

Mrs. Achille said the historical room is where the library trustees and the historical commission will meet.

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"The historical commission weighed in very heavily for the library from the get-go," Mrs. Achille said. "This was a way we could thank them for our support."

The committee has spared no expense on the new building, but has managed to save pieces of the old library. Shelving from the old library will house the nonfiction collection in the new library. The stained glass window created by Island artist Barney Zeitz also made the move from Circuit avenue and now nestles among the windows on the landing between the two floors. A large antique table is also making the move and will be placed in the first floor meeting room.

The entire building will be wireless, and six stations will be available for express e-mail.

The town of Oak Bluffs experienced the largest population growth on the Island in the last 10 years and the Martha's Vineyard Commission estimates during the summer there is an additional influx of 15,000 seasonal residents. The annual circulation of the library increased 69 per cent in six years with a high demand for computer access. This was a sign to the town the library had to be larger.

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The building project cost $3.8 million, with $1.5 million coming from a Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners grant. Another $1.5 million must be raised from private donations. The new library is projected to meet the town's needs for at least the next 20 years.

"As we got more and more books and more demand the staff pushed their work area into smaller spaces and pushed the books closer together," Mrs. Achille said. "They are just the best. Now they have the space to expand and move without tripping over cables."