Questions for Sawyer Free Library building plans remain unanswered, yet trustees “should vote” TODAY whether it’s a teardown, reno, or …

library exterior from Dale.jpg

Public meetings –

Today Wednesday, May 15th, 2019


The Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library Building Committee will compare roughly estimated costs of one addition/renovation concept design for the Monell wing with the estimated costs of  a tear-down/new build of the Monell wing, after which the Board of Trustees “should vote” on their recommendation for which option to pursue. The plans are roughly the same as ones presented January 2017. Saunders is not a smidgen of this 21+ million quote. I’d link to any and all minutes and plans, but they have not been published on the library’s website (as they have been with other MBLC projects), distributed to the corporators (I am one),  nor released as hand outs and printed matter. I was told “when it’s the right time” by the architectural firm.

  1. tear down Monell / construct new building (nothing for Saunders)
  2. vs renovate Monell and build addition (nothing for Saunders)
  3. vs other


Trustees “should vote” to accept the Building Committee’s recommendation based on roughly estimated costs

May 20th Annual Meeting

The annual meeting comes after today’s vote. “The Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library annual meeting of the corporation will be Monday, May 20th, 6-8, Main Floor. The Reading (MA) Public Library Director will give the keynote address on Building Community, Building a Library followed by a presentation of the preferred concept design (voted today), closing with remarks of the president of the board on the future plans for the library.”


21 thoughts on “Questions for Sawyer Free Library building plans remain unanswered, yet trustees “should vote” TODAY whether it’s a teardown, reno, or …

  1. Thank you Catherine for this update. I shared this on FB and posted the following comment with my post.
    “I have attended some of the workshops that the library has done. What I heard at those meetings was that the library should focus on the tasks needed and not trying to build their dream. Why is it that they are so focused on changing and getting rid of what has worked for Gloucester always. I feel like they wish they could live and work in any other place but here. Please leave our beautiful buildings alone. We don’t want to look like everywhere else…” Pauline Bresnahan

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Pauline, I am encouraged to hear people at the meetings were opposed to this “new & improved” version as I don’t see a thing wrong with what we have. If that was the case, why have they moved forward with it? Is this out of the community’s hands? Has there much coverage in the GDT? I see it as conspicuous consumption of tax dollars. There is no such thing as free money. Is the city expected to pay a portion as they were the last go round?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for reading and adding in, google gal. The state grant 9 million. The representative from the architectural firm described it as a gift. The library hired a fundraising firm. Your comment prompted me to jot down a nutshell recap of the meeting (see my other comment).


        1. A gift? That’s tax money, for heaven’s sake! It hasn’t fallen from the sky. That reminds me of a comment that was made by one of the suits at a public meeting on Gloucester Crossing. With a straight face he enthusiastically informed us, the ignorant masses, that malls “were a lifestyle”! I have to remind myself that I’m “living the life” whenever I’m up there… and chuckle.


  2. I just opened this email 45 minutes after this meeting started. What is going on??!! The community was so much opposed to spending this money the last go round. Are people in Gloucester aware of this? Do they care or have they given up? I have been away this winter and only had these missives to try to learn what was happening. But to have decisions made tonight seems very premature. Am I the only clueless one?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. quick notes from the meeting:

    The building committee voted on Renovation (of Monell)/Addition (added to back of Monell shell) rather than a complete tear down. “Guts Monell completely.”
    The Trustees voted unanimously to approve the Building Committee’s recommendation.

    Though the very rough costs and proposed architectural plans are not final, the motion carried forward to proceed with design concept as quoted in favor of renovation/addition because the “cost communicator” consultant (same as one in 2017) deemed both options were roughly the same price, 24 million excluding:
    -expenditures thus far
    -fees for architects and surveys, etc.
    -“25-30%” projected costs for everything required studs out, reportedly what the MbLC describes as the cost of anything that falls out “if the building is turned upside down and shaken.”
    -other costs like ones associated with preparing the buildings for renovation
    -work on Saunders
    -The “bid” includes a 25% contingency expressed as standard percentage.
    -More details to come
    -Final designs will need to be requoted
    -Anticipate annual adjustments ($500,000 mentioned) if 2023 start date pushed back.

    The Trustees applauded the efforts of the Chair of the building committee for steering the group to consensus. There is a new and active Saunders House committee.


    1. I was at the meeting last night and the vast majority of people including Pru Fish and Damon Cumming are in favor of the plan.
      As for the money there is 9 million from the state and the rest will be raised privately. NO TAXPAYER FUNDS!
      As for posting on the library website There was NO plan until last night when it was voted on. Plus no other committees agendas and minutes are posted on the library site.
      All agendas and minutes are posted on the city site.
      I went to a Saunders meeting and the head of fundraising was there. the stae demands a separation of the two projects, but it seemed to me that the raise for both will be at the same time. Saunders Committee seemed happy.
      I never see you at these small meetings so how can you comment?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your comment. Do you mean to write that the plan was approved? Or do you mean that the decision was made to drop the idea of a new building, and continue with renovation of Monell? I concur that most people were/are in favor of preservation/renovation and pleased a total tear down is off the table. I do not agree that all are in favor of the (architectural) plans, costs, and communication.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. For two and a half years demolition of the Monell building has been on the table. Now it is off the table. That makes me happy. My concern was for the streetscape and preserving the integrity of the historic district by keeping a facade that works and was intentionally designed to compliment City Hall and the Museum in a small but rare instance of urban planning. I leave the interior and the design of the addition to others for whom those issues are important. As Catherine suggested, the satisfaction exhibited last night was that for Monell, at last, demolition is finally off the table.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Google Gal, Frankly, I find the numbers shocking. It seems there are other large projects built for a lot less money. As everyone knows I was adamantly opposed to squandering the Monell building and find no justification for demolishing a 40 year old building that is pleasing to the eye and appropriate for the historic district. It seems extravagant to me. I appreciate those on the building committee and the board that listened to those of us who felt strongly about saving the Monell building. And it would seem to me that a renovation should cost less, a lot less, than demolition and new construction. As far as building a new “green building”, in the words of the National Trust, “the greenest building you will ever own is the one you already have.”.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thank you for your reply. I wondered if I was the only one who found the dollar figure incomprehensible. What could be gained to make that expenditure worthwhile? Those would be the most expensive convenient bathrooms and interior stairs in the state, I would think.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Prudence you are a treasure and appreciared
    by many of us.
    I have spoken with members of the building committee and the architect and the cost is in the interior of the building.
    What bothers me about people like Ryan is she never talks about the services a new library will provide. Much of what she states are fabrications.


      1. As for google gals comment about “taxpayer funds” from the state. It is money allocated specifically for library construction.
        So she would like to see the money go to another city?
        I know, what we have is good enough for Glosta!
        As for Prudence’s concern about the streetscape. She has people on the Board and Building Committee who agree with her position.
        BTW, Lamonts article is wrong in that the Board already voted to except the plan. There will be no vote on Monday.
        If you think the library is costly, wait till you see the price of a new school.


        1. I realize it is money allocated for libraries that need building or improving as it was clearly communicated. But that doesn’t mean this library needs that much “improvement”. I don’t go along with the thinking just because it’s there we should grab it. Do you personally think this library needs 24 million dollars of renovation? If so, what are your objections to what we have? What do you estimate the costs would be to renovate your own home? The figure sounds astronomical to me and the disruption would be long. I was pretty happy with the library as it was. There have been changes that I don’t see as beneficial.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep trying to conjure up what it would cost to bring my house down to the studs in order to make it state of the art. I think everyone else should do the same. Then try to imagine how renovating the library could possibly cost $24 million. Didn’t the entire high school cost $20 million to build? I realize it was 20+ years ago, but still….how much larger than the library is the high school?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Haha, I think what bothers you is that Ms. Ryan has engaged our community in the talks and plans. Her knowledge and expertise on the Library has helped many of us in our city to ask questions and get more involved. That in my opinion should be applauded.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m sorry but it is so obvious that you ave not done your homework as far as the cost of a renovation and addition.
    The MBLC found the SFL to be below standards. The costs today average 500 to 600.00 a sq foot for a library. So the SFL is not out of line.
    You might notice Ms Ryan never compares library to library costs. Why?
    She bullies people and asks questions that sometimes make you wonder.
    Some guy at the Building Committee meeting gave her a taste of her own medicine a she was in shock. As one City Councillor said, her goal is chaos and control. Maybe that’s the way it is done in NY, but not here.
    It is amazing to me that people who have no building background act like experts.


    1. We can see who is writing comments. Greetings James Dix, back on, signed “someone anonymous”. Thanks for reading and commenting again. Yes, I was at that meeting although I don’t believe I’ve met you. (I saw one James I have met, James Pope, there as he is a trustee.) This was a Trustees Meeting. Some serve on the Building Committee. When the Chair of Building Committee opened up the floor to questions I asked 1)Since there is no diversity, no women, nor members with young families represented on the building committee is this the one to move on and 2)(since the vote was set to move) before any vote takes place can they clarify if the vote was solely related to taking razing Monell off the table vs renovation, and that it did not mean we were locked into these proposed plans/architect/costs? Since 2009-2012 people have been hoping for renovation updates, including me. The Chair said it was just the vote about raze vs. reno. And then the full committee voted. They also voted to pay $500 stipend to the Reading Library Director as an invited guest speaker for the upcoming annual meeting. Those were the only votes I heard.

      So, the plans are not set in stone.

      There was no exchange with a member of the building committee. A trustee exclaimed to the room that “she is really pissing me off” when I was speaking. I am concerned at the make-up of the committee in the name of a “21st” century build —- shock is not the description I felt. I didn’t take it personally. After the meeting another committee member said I had no right to speak that way, at “his meeting”, and this was supposed to be a celebration.

      The goals are confusing because there was a vote, based on “preferred plans” and one bid, described as years of design (for this) and still to come, and the annual meeting was falling after this one. I was not surprised that it wasn’t clearly conveyed for the Gloucester Daily Times report.

      The plans are not set in stone.


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