Sawyer Free 2025 Public Library: Subsequent Redesign plans, Annual Meeting 2022 – Oudens EllO with Dore + Whittier updates and questions #GloucesterMA

November 16, 2022

Recap and scenes from the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library 2022 Annual meeting, including views of the most recent revised concept proposal for the renovation and addition intended for the library as they appeared in the feature presentation (Oudens & Ello Architects with Dore + Whittier Architects) Sawyer Free 2025

Mern Sibley, Pres. of the Library Board, greeted the crowd and emceed. Jill Cahill thanked everyone and announced that she was there on behalf of the Mayor who was unable to attend as he was at the SFL Medal Awards. (And Jenny Benedict, Library Director, was here at the SFL Annual Meeting, unable to attend the SFL Medal Awards at GHS. Ditto some corporators, perhaps.) The City and Gloucester School District are working closely together, and thrilled to be partnering. In speaking with the Mayor about what message he hoped to convey, Cahill said their moving conversation spilled over among the City Hall Administration staff and easily turned to reminiscences about how the library impacted their lives. A musician himself and music fan, Mayor Verga told them as a boy he loved checking out the CDs and CD player. Cahill shared how first public outings for her mom, wheelchair bound after a health spell, were easy at the library precisely because everyone there was so friendly, and the library was so accessible.

Benedict stressed how instrumental the library was in bringing the community back together after Covid closures and how that was reflected in the robust attendance and programs. Attendance numbers included school visits, too. She concluded with a big note of gratitude for the 16 staff “library champions” which received the biggest clap of the night.

Latest Plans – Oudens & Ello Architects with Dore + Whittier Architects

With a nod to prior remarks, Matt Oudens began by saying thanks and that he “was happy to be reminded of going from libraries of things to libraries that DO.”

Thankfully Gloucester’s library can boast both/and since its inception.

He began by showing the library as it stands now.

“We’ve always noticed how difficult it is to enter the building — the renovation of Saunders is its own project– and the difficult wayfinding problem.”

Since the last time he presented, a construction manager was engaged who recommended modifying the plans (along the side of the Monell building parallel to Middle Street). The “sliver” on that side would be too expensive to build. Instead a “glass “gasket” between the Monell shell and the new addition is planned that will be more economical and a clear signal of where to circulate in & up” the library building(s).

Old concept plan Left | Revised concept plan as of 11/16/2022 Right (note angled “gasket”)

LOWER LEVEL

A lower lobby on the Lower Level was expanded. More bathrooms were added. This wing will be available off hours and can be open on its own, separate from the main building. The meeting space on the lower level will open to the outside, to use the outdoor space that runs along the length between the library and Central Grammar (as the children’s library had). *maybe longer then now

DALE AVENUE LEVEL

All adult collection here. The newspaper periodical reading lobby will be open (high ceiling by soaring windows overlooking Rando Memorial gardens and amphitheater). The 1913 pass through stacks (between the Monell and Saunders) is now the Gallery and Cafe area. A gently sloped sidewalk will allow for greater accessibility at this entrance.

TOP FLOOR

Children’s services spaces. Teen spaces.

DESIGN

“Overall, much more light will transform the library into a nice place to be.”

Much of the exterior is being preserved. Oudens was excited that they’ll be removing the HVAC down to floor and increasing glazing by 25%. All the energy upgrades are important to him*. The light colored brick selected for the new addition will match the painted brick of the Monell. (The community pressed for green consideration all along. As of Feb. 2019 the design team emphasized that scope.)

photo block below: Before / After pairings followed by more views of current built environment and questions

TEMPORARY LOCATION ON MAIN STREET IS OPEN

“You can do any and all library things that you do here (at the Dale Ave. location) at the temporary location on Main Street. Go! Please check it out!”

Now thru 2025. The temporary library address is 21 Main Street–above Mystery Train; next to Virgilio’s; across from Tonno, Short & Main, and Caffe Sicilia; down the street from The Bookstore of Gloucester, Pop Gallery, and the Isabel Babson library. Look for “SFL@21Main” for events off site, too!

Questions Asked FROM THE FLOOR

Questions and comments from the audience– followed the budget and architectural plan agenda items:

Question. What is the (financial) arrangement with the city? How does the money/financing work with the city? Joe Grella, Board member, explained first that the Annual Meeting budget report is for the year prior to the year the meeting is taking place. Then he presented the budget. The endowment is below 5 mil and will deplete more. These reserves will need to be built back up at a future date. The questions about the financial arrangement followed his budget report. He explained the debt. (One million had been appropriated for the fundraising/fee.)

Q. What about the fundraising? What happens if it’s not raised? A. Mern Sibley said that’s a perfect segue to introducing John Brennan for the fundraising report. “The City voting to fund the loan for the new building was a game changer,” and they’ve raised 52% of the goal. He appealed for a benefactor like philanthropists over a century ago: “Seeking the Next Samuel Sawyer. The Next Addison…We need to still find donors that will propel the project…(Since ca. 2018) it was a small group of me, Fred, Deb (Lib. Dir. summer 2015-summer 2020), others and NOW with the city’s momentum, we’re picking up speed (fundraising). [Hence another Sawyer Library Foundation and Sawyer Free 2025 Capital campaign.] A postcard was sent to every household in Gloucester…” He credited an audience member with the phrase, “We’re just jazzed.” And thanked the donors: Inst. Savings, Bank Glou, Sudbay, Gorton’s, etc.

Q. This has been mentioned before, but how will children’s services work for programs on the top floor with one elevator? A. Oudens said it has worked at other buildings he’s completed. The elevator will be bigger than the one that’s there now.

Q. Have there been more thought to swapping (floors) / amending designs? A. The distribution hasn’t changed.

Q. Is the atrium height filled in? Yes. The ceiling will be the floor of the top level. (On this floor, height will be opened up above the new Newspapers and Periodical Reading area which is overlooking Rando Memorial )

Q. What is the cafe? A. Oudens repeated the potential location (former stacks connector) and how they’ve worked at other libraries. He replied that that’s undecided.

Q. The new “stacks” space is windows. Where will the art hang (auction and exhibits)? Where are the walls? (several audience members) Oudens suggested free standing display panels, etc., and to check out the space following the meeting to see the general idea of the footprint there and confirm window count.

Q. Has there been consideration of repurposing and/or revising as much as possible of the extant building existing elements? A. Oudens said there’s not a lot to save, mostly because of code compliance reasons. There will be many upgrades. “The plans (now) maintain the exterior. Hopefully the inside will have enough of a refreshed feeling of Monell.”

Q. Where are the bathrooms? A. The plans show more bathrooms than what’s here now, and on each and every level. Oudens mentioned 4 or 5 bathrooms on the School Street | back of the building level, dictated/guided by the size of the meeting room, which is capacity 100. (I believe there were 2 restrooms for women, 1 men, and one all. Maybe they can all be all gender bathrooms, like planes.) *Not sure if they are all accessible

More questions.

I also wonder about the Matz gallery space, and how to add more gallery space. Also, where are the designated special built sites for major works in the collection (removed–on loan to Cape Ann Museum and storage/Trust). I was asked if the bathrooms can be reconfigured or the stairwell so that there are more elevators if the traffic flow isn’t flipped? Is there ample space for archives and research? Do the plans emphasize or miss a strategy and monies spent for digitization of the enviable archives, accessibility for all? Are there too many meeting spaces especially with other options close by (City Hall, Temple, UU Church, CAM, sites on Main Street, and more)? A cafe option split audience reaction, and prompted great chatter of “I’d love that!” and “No way!” One board member repeated how much he loved the Wenham Library more than this building. In the rendering showing a viewshed from Dale Avenue/City Hall to SFL, is the new addition blocking the view of the UU Church? Feedback over the years asked about the corridor between Central Grammar and the library and views showcasing City Hall.

The history of SFL’s extant buildings and archives (of historical and cultural, local and national significance) are the envy of libraries along the North Shore and –with the City’s, CAM’s –such assets are up there with Boston’s Public Library and major university repositories.

I believe that the custodian services are borne by the City. When the library is open for special events beyond operating hours a custodian is responsible for closing, if not the event breakdown itself. How will this impact the budget for the library and the city?

Beautiful and delicious spread by Willow Rest

Links:

  • Ethan Forman wrote about the 2022 Annual meeting here: Architect shares new design of Sawyer Free library addition. Gloucester Daily Times
  • Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Annual Report – will add link or PDF
  • Annual meeting 2021 minutes – will add link or PDF
  • Former presentation roundup here
  • Light corporator attendance. A few board changes plus new corporators .

photo: Party favors – used SFL book ends

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