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

Beautiful New Balance Field / Newell Stadium and O’Maley grounds #GloucesterMA public schools

Wish my phone captured the surreal beauty of the fishing boats floating past the field goal, heading to the cut. Prettiest stadium for spectators in Massachusetts.

beautiful Newell stadium Gloucester High School_20191023_©c ryanbefore ghs boys varsity soccer gam_20191023_New Balance Field Newell Stadium Gloucester MA ©c ryan

IMG_20191023_164046.jpg

Picturesque setting and buffer slope designed like natural ¬†amphitheater for the track and field at O’Maley. The track needs work and the field needs filling/leveling of some troubling holes. To left out of field of view: ball fields and booster funded snack bar shed and restrooms (could be open – gross to see teams head to the trees straight from the bus)

Elementary school campuses are lovely, too. Snapshots of a few:

Sawyer Free proposed building in the news | annual meeting Monday

Sawyer Free exterior_20190517_© c ryan.jpg

Gloucester Daily Times article Sawyer Free trustees eye renovation by Ray Lamont here

Glouceser Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library 2019 Annual meeting Monday May 20 6-8PM

SFL annual meeting 2019 invite.jpg
SFL annual meeting 2019 (*note to SFL- please consider returning to Valerie Marino type posting days — with real people rather than clipart advert photos of children)

 

Prior post Febrary 4, 2019 with some questions

Besides the local new Cape Ann Museum build I’ve mentioned, here is a another recent comparable. Bowdoin’s new Roux Center for the Environment is approximately 30,000 ft’. The planning phase took 9 months. The build out took 14 months and the project cost less than 15 million (seeded with 10 million from the Rouxs). The Sawyer Free project is more than double that cost and the planning phase is many times past.

The community has been consistent about addressing the bathrooms for sometime. In 2014, the¬†‚Äúimmediate objectives will be working with the library‚Äôs board, staff and volunteers to review the library‚Äôs collections for relevance;¬†revamping the building‚Äôs public and staff spaces;¬†overseeing installation of a modern heating and air conditioning system, and mentoring staff in their professional development‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

Round up of new library building coverage prior to November 2018:

Prior post with 1973 brochure ed. Joe Garland

 

Sawyer Free proposed build in the news | annual meeting Monday

Sawyer Free exterior_20190517_© c ryan.jpg

Gloucester Daily Times article Sawyer Free trustees eye renovation by Ray Lamont here

Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library 2019 Annual meeting Monday May 20 6-8PM

SFL annual meeting 2019 invite.jpg
SFL annual meeting 2019 (*note to SFL- please consider returning to Valerie Marino type posting days — with real people rather than clipart advert photos of children)

 

Prior post Febrary 4, 2019 with some questions

Besides the local new Cape Ann Museum build I’ve mentioned, here is a another recent comparable. Bowdoin’s new Roux Center for the Environment is approximately 30,000 ft’. The planning phase took 9 months. The build out took 14 months and the project cost less than 15 million (seeded with 10 million from the Rouxs). The Sawyer Free project is more than double that cost and the planning phase is many times past.

The community has been consistent about addressing the bathrooms for sometime. In 2014, the¬†‚Äúimmediate objectives will be working with the library‚Äôs board, staff and volunteers to review the library‚Äôs collections for relevance;¬†revamping the building‚Äôs public and staff spaces;¬†overseeing installation of a modern heating and air conditioning system, and mentoring staff in their professional development‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

Round up of new library building coverage prior to November 2018:

Prior post with 1973 brochure ed. Joe Garland

 

Sawyer Free Library new building presentation March 27

Sawyer Free Library Gloucester Massachusetts_20190306_© catherine ryan

Keep What Works at the Library – Keep What Works at the Library”, Martha Bowen letter to the editor, Gloucester Daily Times, March 23, 2019

Keep What Works at the Library LTE by Martha Bowen Gloucester Daily Times_March 23 2019.jpg

UPCOMING MEETINGS THIS WEEK

  • ON Tuesday¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†March 26, 2019 Library Trustees meeting from 5:30-7:30PM
  • ON Wednesday March 27, 2019¬†there is a Library (new) Building Committee meeting from 4pm – 6pm.¬†The monthly meetings sometimes follow the traditional schedule of meeting on the last Wednesday of each month at 4:00 pm, and sometimes they have been/will be combined with Trustee meetings, etc. Do confirm ahead: 01/30/2019, 02/27/2019¬†02/26/2019, 03/27/2019, 04/24/2019 LOCATION: confirm SFL location if Friend Room or one of two rooms upstairs/downstairs in Saunders. There may be other informal ad hoc meetings.

Since the last meeting February 26, 2019

 

City Hall from Sawyer Free Gloucester MA_20190306_© catherine ryan

library event page March 25 2019
website 3/25/19

Continue reading “Sawyer Free Library new building presentation March 27”

Sawyer Free Library new building presentation Tues. February 26

architecture of Sawyer Free Library Gloucester MA_comprised of three buildings_winter 20190224_©Catherine Ryanphoto caption: three buildings of Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free public library, winter 

UPCOMING MEETINGS

Note schedule change –¬†architect presentation with new building committee and library trustees is Tuesday February 26.

  • ON Monday February 25, 2019 Saunders House Stewardship Committee, 10:30AM-noon
  • ON Tuesday February 26, 2019¬†there is a Library (new) Building Committee meeting 5:30 PM sharp – 7:30 PM. Please¬†note schedule change, again.¬†The monthly meetings announced were said to follow the traditional schedule of meeting on the last Wednesday of each month at 4:00 pm, but that has not happened as meetings have been combined with Trustee meetings, etc. Do confirm ahead: 01/30/2019, 02/27/2019¬†02/26/2019, 03/27/2019, 04/24/2019 LOCATION: confirm SFL location if Friend Room or one of two rooms upstairs/downstairs in Saunders. There may be other informal ad hoc meetings.
  • ON Wednesday February 27, 2019 the fundraising committee for the new building may be meeting but I’m fairly certain it’s not at 4-5am– just a little typo on the events calendar. Maybe it’s 4-5pm

Fundraising committee.jpg

Catch up (click link to select)

 

TONIGHT Sustainability workshop at Sawyer Free about proposed new building Feb 5 2019 5:30PM

Sustainability workshop scheduled tonight from 5:30-7:30 pm related to proposed new Sawyer Free public library. For more information catch up with a summary of¬† last week’s building committee presentation.¬†

monnell-architect_gloucester-lyceum-and-sawyer-free-public-library_gloucester-ma_20181128_104037-c2a9c-ryan

sustainability.jpg

Sawyer Free new building plans, Prudence Fish weighs in, and public meeting for net-zero green sustainability concerns Feb 5th 2019

Besides the architectural firm, library staff, and library Trustees (including those serving on the New Building committee and the Saunders House committee) there were just a handful of people present for the January 30, 2019 Sawyer Free Public Library new building presentation. There will be monthly Building Committee (“BC”) progress meetings as follows: 2/27, 3/27, and 4/24.

 

sparsely attended presentation mostly architectural firm_ library trustee_ new building and saunders committee members_20190130©catherine ryan
photo caption: Sawyer Free Public Library, Matt Oudens presentation, January 30, 2019, Options 3 & 4 (quite small audience included members of the library Trustees, new building committee, Saunders House committee, and a few residents)

 

The architect stated that the current building was horrible and doing nothing for us, that the new building would improve the look, mediate between old and new, and most importantly provide a strong presence on Dale Avenue. Indeed, The driving goal stated by the Trustees and building committee is to make a statement building that claims a greater presence on Dale Avenue.

I feel that Sawyer’s impact via Saunders and from Dale Avenue (and the back) are elegant. Do we need another City Hall? The library already has a strong individual design identity and at different scales. There‚Äôs a possibility for enhancement, but I’m less confident with examples presented by this team. They continue to describe the library in negative terms. They did not consider honoring or determining the delirious, exceptional qualities of this library‚Äôs already enviable assets, civic center balance, and Gloucester.

New building projected to cost 30 million + and is All staircase / books begone

Preliminary plans Option 3 and Option 4 were touted. Unlike prior reveals, these plans do include and illustrate the cherished historic Saunders House, the beloved Rando Memorial Garden (described as “the random garden could be preserved”), and a setback from the street (Dale Avenue). One allowed preservation of the north side space that’s there and sensitively sited by Monell.

However, the new options continue to put forth a three story building dominated by an unwieldy progressive or processional staircase¬† (“usable bleacher seating”) and the children’s services on the top floor with an “occupiable terrace”– an absurd design flaw roundly dismissed by patrons, corporators and experts since first iterations were presented late 2016.¬† Since they’ve been working on this for years, and options 3 & 4 are only slightly different than what was initially proposed (the “components” were shifted but still there) why aren’t all the plans readied? The earlier plans* had the progressive staircase along the South side of the Monell building. *see below

The efficient Monell building can welcome and disperse 150+ guests for a lecture or presentation on its main floor without any elevator crush. Just as with homes, aged or injured appreciate that the main floor embraces a one level plan. The current entrance steps are few. Existing accessibility options are sufficient for any population. Similarly, bustling children’s services¬†programming — like caregiver laptime– have multiple access options. There is never any stroller traffic jam at the elevator or entrances. We used to line up our strollers outside. As a mother of twins, access to the outdoors (North side and Dale) was a most welcome part of programs and sometimes necessary for “family time” (e.g. swift exit for overtired bawling!) Navigating a rooftop green space terrace and a purposeless overgenerous statement staircase with toddlers and a double stroller would have been my idea of a nightmare. I’m not sure patrons or staff would be excited to bring a group of toddlers on a roof or staircase for serious running around & playtime, but that’s not a problem on the ground floor. Prior to 2014 a couple of Trustees had spoken with me about a climbable public sculpture commission to enhance that outdoor space. It’s funny to hear it being described as dispensable.

Also confounding was the idea behind a glassed in children’s extra room: it would afford adults choices for seating or reading outside the space with the option of observing their charges signed up for some children’s programming. I found that a)creepy because it also underscores welcoming observation by anyone and b)depressing as it misses the point entirely of literacy and building community. I sought library programming to experience with my children and friends and foster connections. (I suppose it could be some type of babysitting amenity??)

  • New Sawyer library building preliminary plans _20190130_ options 3 and 4 not markedly different than options shown 2017 ¬© catherine ryan

 

scituate mom carrying kid on stairs.jpg
photo caption: Scituate was one of two libraries (the old one “very dated and ugly inside not unlike this one…similarly required aerating”) shared as model examples. Note the mom carrying the kid on the dominant staircase. The second model example was Webster which looked similar to the new hospital builds in Burlington.

Prudence Fish reflects on the meeting

I wondered what others felt about the meeting. Prudence Fish writes:

“The meeting of the building committee last week concentrating on a rebuild plan for the Monell building initially gave the audience a certain amount of confidence and relief that a decision had been made to proceed with a plan that would retain the Monell building and bring it into the 21 century. Our bubble burst when the committee was asked if this meant demolition was off the table and were told that nothing was off the table.

This process has gone on for over two years. It will still be years before they break ground and even more years before a ribbon cutting. This process has become a painful never ending ordeal. Throughout this time the projected costs have escalated. The money spent on plans with no immediate end in sight is increasingly extravagant.
It goes without saying that the building should be as green as is possible. However, this is in a local historic district and is also in a National Register District. It is unlikely that the National Trust for Historic Preservation would ever approve or endorse the demolition of an existing 40 year old building in order to build a net zero or green building replacement.

It‚Äôs time to cut to the chase and move things along with common sense and a plan that is affordable and meets our needs within the walls of the Monell building.” – Prudence Fish reflecting on the January 30, 2019 meeting

Some Q & A from 1/30/19

*I think the consultants should transcribe the meetings and collect & consolidate prior feedback so as to avoid misstating comments such as no knowledge of the community’s green concerns or that the north side from their understanding is not used. The library Trustees can provide accessible links on the website and print outs for the meetings.

Question  Are nimble renovations, major adaptive reuse, or tear down more green? Is keeping the building the same size more green? Of plan options 3 & 4 which is more green? How about leaving the building pretty much the same? Why is there so much emphasis on more windows if green goals are desired? How can you talk about net zero when you demolish one building to build another? In the effort to meet programmable needs can sustainability needs be met?

Answer- According to the presenters, because the architectural firm is now realizing just how important green building is to the community, they encourage us to join the building committee for a public meeting Tuesday February 5, 2019 to delve into these questions. The architectural firm announced that it had not realized just how concerned Gloucester was with green builds and as such brought on a consulting expert to join their team. Emphasis on green design was a huge concern two years ago during every public meeting.  There will be a meeting about the new building and green design Tuesday February 5, 2019. 5:30PM

Question-¬†Does plan 3 have more parking?¬†Can a parking lot be added to the North side? (“North” side is the space between Central Grammar and the library. The few people present said please preserve this green space corridor which is consistent public feedback.) How does designing for more cars line up with green concerns?

Answer – Maybe. “We need to study everything further; The plans are very preliminary.”¬† (Three guests expressed preserving the North side green space.)

Question: What is the size of the new plan?

Answer- 26,000 to 27,000 but again these plans are preliminary. They believe the plans are within what’s allowable, but “no matter municipal amendments overrides zoning.” *known as Municipal Dover amendments

Question: Do the plans require more staff? Do the plans require more janitors?

Answer: staffing will likely be the same operationally. A new building will cost less to run and may require less staff by design. (Wait– more staff has been requested and is there proof to support those claims. More building can cost more…)

Question-Does presentation of plans 3&4 mean that tearing down Monell is off the table?

Answer. No. This process will take 3 or 4 more years and we’ll work with the architectural firm through each option in detail. Furthermore the building committee and architects stressed that a renovation would most likely be more money so the options presented tonight may be a moot point. Approaches of adaptive reuse (like options 3 & 4 presented at this meeting) “may be significantly more money!”

Question- where are deliveries, storage, trash and behind the scenes work accounted for in the plans? (I’d add where are archives, digitization crowd source options, etc).

Answer – the plans aren’t granular at this stage.

Question-Is the feasibility¬†study due in May or June?What exactly are we fundraising for if the plans aren’t decided? What will be the demonstration for donors?

Answer- We do have to begin fundraising. (A fundraising firm has been contracted.) The building is estimated to cost more than 30 million based on the timeline.

 

 

Further questions

Where has the art gone? Can we bring the art back?

How will Saunders House be integrated and featured?

Are there any women on the new building committee? Do any of the members have children under 18 years of age? under 14 years of age? Have any of them had experience with managing an architectural build of this scale, one that’s open to the public and boasts enviable assets including historical properties, archives and collections, green space, and specific security concerns?

Where has the emphasis on books and literacy gone? Have the Trustees, committees and architects seen Once Upon a Contest selections from Cape Ann Reads initiative? Cape Ann Reads was co-founded by Library Director Deborah Kelsey. It’s my understanding that the trustees are driving this new build.

The most frequented and photographed library spaces at the Boston Public Library and New York Public Library continue to be the classic reading rooms. Retired New England patriots player and new children’s book author and program developer Martellus Bennett was inspired by the classic wrap around library as depicted in Beauty in the Beast, and Harry Potter fans of all ages admire its enviable repository environs.¬†Is there something to learn from the Cape Ann Museum proposal for a new building targeting one year and under 5 million? Can a design competition be opened up, requiring build out completion in less than two years and under 5 million? Can immediate expansion and attention to bathrooms, renovation and expansion of children’s services, new staff hires, and maximizing lovely Saunders happen ASAP? What are the possibilities for any beneath ground (or beneath parking lot) solutions or connections as with the underground walkway between the National Gallery buildings?

You can peruse the library new building plan options offered on the architect’s website (when the staircase was on the south side). The architect is keen on pillow seating options on a wide staircase (dated High Line-esque without any presentation spot or view).

Matt Oudens selling Gloucester build on his site now

old plans
first options, big statement building with big staircase with pillows

Since 2013 How much money has been spent

  • on marketing
  • on the Saunders House
  • on the main building
  • on the new building pursuit

 

 

Upcoming meetings: Sawyer Free Library new building plans

Monnell architect_Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Public Library_Gloucester MA_20181128_104037 ©c ryan.jpg

photo caption: Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free public library from Dale Avenue (beautiful Monnell and Saunders building)

UPCOMING MEETINGS

  • ON Monday Jan 28 there is¬†Saunders House Committee meeting¬†10:30 AM – 12:00 PM LOCATION: Byers/Davidson Room according to the library’s calendar. Additionally,¬†The Saunders House Stewardship Committee, meets at 10:30 am on the third Monday of every month; confirm locations on the day. January 2019 was moved to January 14th because it would have fallen on Martin Luther King day.

Saunders.jpg

  • ON Wed Jan 30 there is¬†Library (new) Building Committee meeting¬†4:00 PM – 6:00 PM Then monthly: 01/30/2019, 02/27/2019, 03/27/2019, 04/24/2019 LOCATION: confirm if Friend Room or one of two rooms upstairs/downstairs in Saunders. There may be other informal ad hoc meetings–there was one scheduled at Dore & Whittier in December.

 

For your review – summary and scenes from the November 15, 2018 public meeting and recent headlines:

 

Sawyer Free Library moves forward on new building plans_another phase to Dore Whittier consultants_20181115_© c ryan (1).jpgphoto caption: Central Grammar apartments (left), City Hall (back), Sawyer Free library (right)

 

Sawyer Free Library moves forward on new building plans_another phase to Dore Whittier consultants_20181115_© c ryan (2)
photo caption: at the start of the 11/15/18 Library new building meeting – eight to ten tables set up, and mood boards on stands

 

Sawyer Free Library moves forward on new building plans_another phase to Dore Whittier consultants_20181115_© c ryan (4)
photo caption: Brad Dore introduces the design team November 2018 (eight including him) Matt Oudens raising hand in this photo presented his designs at the 2017 meeting

Sawyer Free Library moves forward on new building plans_another phase to Dore Whittier consultants_20181115_© c ryan (3)

Approximately fifty attendees –including¬†the library board and staff plus eight consultants from the firm, Dore & Whittier Project Management and Architecture— convened on the main floor of Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library on November 15, 2018. Individuals from the Historical commission, Action Inc, Saunders House, Gloucester Green, a local middle school teacher, a Varian employee, library members and 3 teenagers were present.

I believe the light attendance was due to a feeling of repetition. The public meeting was billed as an opportunity to provide feedback to the library yet again.¬†It turns out that the gathering was a required step in the next phase of the library building plans and as such was presented to be starting from square one. No matter how one tries to paint it, it’s not square one. “This is just a necessary step,” the consultants explained. “”It doesn’t matter.”

Since 2013, the library has facilitated and hired consultants to help with public forums related to the building and future plans. (Public and committee meetings, agendas, minutes, and strategic planning are requirements for grants and funding, not to mention big pursuits like new buildings or restoration). It is disconcerting that years of prior and extensive staff and public feedback are not aggregated and readied by the library board nor contracted consultants–especially as several in attendance were present at the January 11, 2017 meeting attended by 150+ that sent the building plans back to the drawing board.

contentious Jan 11 2017 meeting Sawyer Free.jpg
photo caption: Jan 11 2017 crowd  (paintings on view like the Lanes  since moved)

 

That contentious January 2017 meeting was preceded by the corporators* meeting two weeks prior where feedback recommended recording and sharing public comments for transparency and efficiency and many of the same concerns were expressed.

*I am a library corporator and can attest that project updates have not been shared (albeit annual meetings) Corporators are a devoted library audience and might help.

clerk recorder
photo caption: The official recorder for committee and municipal meetings in City Hall is a great model. 

 

In between the timing of that big 2017 meeting and this small 2018 one, the library pursued forums via ThinkGloucester facilitated by Gloucester Conversations for its strategic planning. At those forums, the library indicated that¬† results would be shared in the fall of 2018. I was not the only one expecting those results linked on the homepage and printed out for the November 15th meeting. They weren’t. Following the meeting, a board member kindly shared the findings: Sawyer Free Library thinkGloucester Project Report_final 2018

State funding support for library buildings is guided by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners ( MBLC). In part because of the state’s toolkit funding process, the November 2018 meeting became a fresh start and first step, Phase 1. I was told that the architects and designers needed to hear feedback “first hand” which is reasonable until you establish that yes in fact most of them had been at that most well attended public meeting to date mentioned above (2017), and have been engaged by the library and worked with the library committees for years. Although that money is disassociated as part of the MBLC toolkit next phase, each purchase order (PO) for marketing/public relations (PR) and phases towards new building plans can affect the library’s bottom line, and take years. ¬†When I find them, I will link to the library’s letter of intent, a list of costs for consulting to date (phases or not), building related work, marketing completed since 2013, and for the fine art removed.

In 2013 top concerns included new bathrooms, more staff, the Saunders building, art & archives, and the HVAC systems. Here we are six years later: I can say there has been no change in the bathrooms. The library needs more staff. Voices to preserve the John and Dorothy Rando memorial garden have arisen. The teenagers at the November meeting hoped for new lighting. Perhaps that’s an easy renovation. After six years, the library may have saved some money and developed outreach by conducting a local design competition, fixing the bathroom, and hiring staff. We may have move forward together to MBLC instead of what feels like a never ending “stage one”.

MBLC supports new builds that adhere to a best practice formula and adjusts as no two libraries or communities are exactly the same. For instance, specific additional square footage from a current footprint, varied “programmable” spaces, adequate parking and public input are guidelines.¬†I would suggest that money be spent on clerks/recorders for the public meetings and the library should insist on that from their consultants (whether Dore &Whittier or not). I would hope that new input at every stage continues to be updated and evaluated.¬†Why is the focus on “green” LEED not parsing the MBLC parking spaces requirements? The Boston Public Library did away with them–we should expect no less. Some rural or smaller communities may need larger library builds and new visions to create a statement cultural public gathering spot where there hasn’t been one. (Although I think that’s unlikely in MA.) Our extant library has a variety of gathering spaces. And Gloucester is blessed with an abundance of large, special public spaces that work in concert with the library. City Hall, Cape Ann Museum, Temple Ahavat Achim, the YMCA, and the Gloucester Meetinghouse UU Church are essentially library abutters and can pack hundreds.¬† The Legion, Rose Baker Senior Center and Maritime Gloucester are short blocks away. The library can move events to off-site locations when and if it’s mutually rewarding. Mostly it does OK in house. Gloucester’s population hovers 30,000 which is the same as it was at the time of the last expansion. Does our population require more space?¬†According to sources in the paper and the meeting, the building plans remain many years out.¬†¬†The Massachusetts funding model has decreased and according to¬†the MBLC press release issued Nov 2018, “The longer a community goes without being able to start its project, the higher the construction costs will be.”¬†At what point do the costs outweigh options like renting if building lifespans are warrantied to a few decades expectancy? If the process requires construction this costly, perhaps the state can reimburse communities more money, quicker, and/or develop other models?

You can read a range of reactions to the library’s November 15, 2018 meeting in an article by Ray Lamont in the Gloucester Daily Times:¬†Sawyer Free Library plans still unclear, ¬†November 19, 2018

Ray Lamont article above the fold_library building plans update_Gloucester Daily Times_20181120_©c ryan

 

And a follow up article Library debate: to raze or expand. Decisions needed before state funding kicks in, by Ray Lamont, Gloucester Daily Times, November 29, 2018

Gloucester Daily Times Nov 29 2018 Library debate to raze or expand by Ray Lamont.jpg

 

Dore & Whittier was awarded the 197 million Newton North high school design and build, and multiple MBLC and MSBA contracts for the City of Gloucester. Here is a link to the complete project list published on their website (and photos below).¬†You’ll need to go back and forth among the awarded category projects to separate work by town. (For instance, West Parish is listed but does not indicate “Gloucester” and the library work does not appear). The state sites don’t aggregate all phases either. The Massachusetts school PO status from March 2018 lists 3 awards: the East Gloucester Elementary School study, the GHS roof repair and the West Parish build.

 

 

 

at the back of Sawyer Free pano_20170129_©c ryan

 

The current website does not have a “button” or menu selection for new building plans. You can select from the calendar to see some of the meetings announced. You can select About to explore more about the board committees and some minutes and agendas. Some meetings are linked into the City of Gloucester calendar, too.

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Round up of new library building coverage prior to November 2018: Continue reading “Upcoming meetings: Sawyer Free Library new building plans”

Weigh in! Sawyer Free Public library seeking ideas for next steps (since the summer 2018 thinkGloucester conversations) November 15th

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The Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library is holding a public meeting¬† November 15, 6-8pm, seeking ideas about the library’s next steps.

In May and June 2018,¬† the library’s¬†volunteer group, thinkGloucester, held a series of community meetings facilitated by¬†Gloucester Conversations. People were invited “to join these open conversations to share ideas¬†and input for the library’s five-year strategic plan.” I went to one of the meetings which was lightly attended with 12 participants beyond staff, board and facilitators. Further outreach included meetings off site in different wards as well as through social media and on line. Postcards were sent to every residence encouraging participation in an online survey. I’ll look for a link to a summary page of results from that feedback.¬† In the meantime, here’s a link to a message from the Board –¬†Creating our Future an update on the building project, June 2018¬†

Sawyer Free meeting notice November 2018

More staff, books, better bathrooms, celebrate Saunders, children’s library, local art, archives!

Prior posts about proposed library plans Continue reading “Weigh in! Sawyer Free Public library seeking ideas for next steps (since the summer 2018 thinkGloucester conversations) November 15th”

Coastal beauty: Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library

Gloucester’s enchanting open spaces¬† – Sawyer Free library’s John and Dorothy Rando Memorial Garden at the front and side entrances

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looking to City Hall from Sawyer Free _May flowers spring 2018_©c ryan

Fitz Henry Lane and other art removed from the library building (January 2018):

https://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/down-the-lane-fitz-henry-lane-art-shuffled-from-gloucester-sawyer-free-library-to-cape-ann-museum/

Proposed building plans 2017 includes 1972 quest for what became lovely Monnell building:

https://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2017/01/03/no-finer-place-for-sure-downtown-proposed-building-plans-sawyer-free-library-city-hall-whoa-in-the-news-plus-the-1973-appeal-led-by-joseph-garland-universal-access-and-archives/

 

In the news: Congratulations Kurt Lichtenwald for leading Gloucester High School robotics and engineering program and students to another recognition–this one national! And those smart Monnells…

Well deserved. See wonderful story by Ray Lamont in today’s Gloucester Daily Times:¬†GHS Engineering program wins national award,¬†Photo by Mike Springer shows Kurt with students Austin Monnell and Conor Williamson.

NATIONAL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE FROM THE INTERNATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND ENGINEERING EDUCATORS ASSOCIATION  

TEACHER EXCELLENCE AWARD 

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It’s close to Kurt’s 20th anniversary at Gloucester High School. Here’s a throwback photo I took in February 2012 at East Gloucester Elementary. Kurt brought the high school students in to the elementary school to lead science and robotic stations for all the kids. He told me then about his approach:

‚ÄúFor too long; students who could memorize facts were considered highly intelligent. In my classes students must learn to apply the knowledge and prove that they learned the topics. This is a different kind of intelligence (kinesthetic – hands on intelligence)¬† that for so long has gone unappreciated and unrecognized.¬† Mixing the two types of intelligences (multi level) in a class just makes common sense and great products (student work).‚ÄĚ-Kurt Lichtenwald

 

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Proposed building plans Sawyer Free Library, City Hall…Whoa! In the news plus the 1973 appeal led by Joseph Garland, universal access, and archives

“No finer place for sure, downtown.”

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“Fate of historic buildings uncertain” Gloucester Daily Times, Ray Lamont, Jan 3 2017

Seeing double? Yes, you’re supposed to. The Sawyer Free Library addition was designed to mirror Cape Ann Museum as a balanced and nuanced architectural symmetry in deference to City Hall, and catalyst for a graceful city civic center.

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Cape Ann Museum, December 2017

Sawyer Free Library has announced a public meeting January 11th for discussions of a new building. (See the flyer at the end of this post.)

City Hall may have some upcoming construction on the Dale Avenue side as well.

Both projects are largely in the name of accessibility of a physical nature. Can they be cost effective, worthy of our history and culture, protect our significant buildings, and address current and future needs? The following are some of the issues, local coverage, links to resources, and archival material for your interest.

NEW LIBRARY 2016. And 1973.

Before the current 2015-16 library outreach, the library hosted extensive visioning sessions throughout 2013. I went to a couple, and I was invited to take part in a focus group (on schools and the library.)  A completely new library and jettisoning of the historic Saunders library building was not an expressed community value. What were some common discussion points? A strategy for digitization of historic archives and newspapers, more staff, more hours of operation (Sundays), better bathrooms, parking issues, air conditioning, electrical work, maintenance, security, maximizing technology/ content access with schools, ditto Cape Ann TV, and attendance (see this great video from Lisa Smith by kids for kids ) were some goals that were mentioned.

So it was a surprise to see the unveiling of new architectural renderings that did not showcase the Saunders house. It’s like the White House not featuring¬†the White House. I think the Saunders house should be key and central to any building overhaul, not tossed aside. Providing universal access should preserve the intended awe factors if there are any, FOR EVERYBODY–such as the architectural details, proportion, welcoming entrance and unique heritage of a historic building. In this proposal, with Saunders severed there is zero physical access to the main event. What a missed opportunity. And for a library. What do you think?

Today’s paper mentioned that the Saunders house could be used for other purposes instead of the library. Why can’t that be the case and the library maintain its #1 asset? The downtown cultural district (which is not going forward in the same capacity) and other organizations could use the library meeting spaces. Do we really need to conjure up another stand alone endeavor?

Back in 1973, the Trustees of the Library began¬†a fund drive for the new library addition; the city of Gloucester paid 2/3. As the Library’s General Chairman, Joe Garland led that campaign. Not surprising, the text of the brochure is a good read! The architect was Donald F. Monnell. (In 1971 Monnell was quoted in the papers speaking about the attributes of Central Grammar. ¬†One likes him more and more.)¬†The population served was 27,000–nearly what it is today.

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Awesome design  on this 1973 brochure for the fundraising campaign for the Sawyer Free libraryРled by the Joe Garland (cover). See photos of complete pamphlet

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See “Preserving our Civic Center,” great letter to the editor by Prudence Fish, Gloucester Daily Times, December 23, 2016

Working together

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2016 Planning term and movement- “Scaling Up”

A quip about the concept of Scaling UP that I remember from a conference this past September at Peabody Essex Museum and hosted by Essex National Heritage was to “think about the farm not just a¬†barn”; in this case a downtown, or an entire city and region. I like thinking this way in general–architecture and planning, art, and schools. But this conference pushed me to add overlays beyond my areas of expertise or focus like wildlife and waterways. Gloucester, Cape Ann, Massachusetts–there’s so much!¬†Mayor Romeo Theken is committed to working together and feels that planning is important and broad. One example, see Gloucester Daily Times Dec 19, 2016¬†Officials: City to Prioritize Its (competing) Needs¬†

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City Looks to Prioritize its Needs, Gloucester Daily Times, Ray Lamont, Dec. 19, 2016

There are several looming questions, evaluations, and decisions.

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Every era has choices. The prior library expansion plans began well before 1972. Possibilities swirled as they do now. (Back then, Central Grammar was also in the news, may or may not have been razed, and possible uses favored senior housing, commercial development, an annex to City Hall, and a courthouse police station.) Today there are competing building needs and uses floated for properties as diverse as: the Cape Ann YMCA on Middle Street, the post office on Dale, the Gloucester Fire Department, police headquarters, St. Ann’s, and the elementary schools–and that’s just to name a few.¬†Let’s celebrate enviable architectural strengths, and not fuss with buildings that should be venerated, unless it’s to help them be accessible and healthy.¬†Let’s get the balance right.

HISTORY MAKING PLEA- Archives for all

The prohibitive costs of best practice historic preservation (ADA compliant, temperature and humidity controls, security, sustainability, in house scanning/OCR/audio transcription, etc) is impossible for all the worthy collections in town, and pits them as foes when vying for funds. Let’s flip that impediment on its head and make Gloucester a model for the state. ¬†Its treasures would be available¬†worldwide if they were truly accessible –digitized.Two words may help accomplish this goal and free up cash for individual operations: shared overhead. It’s one hope I continue to stress–the need to share necessary resources for a state-of-the-art research and warehouse repository. This universal hub should be large enough to encompass any holdings not on view. There could be a smaller downtown central site combined with a larger off site location, such as at Blackburn. The list of sharing institutions could include and is by no means exhaustive: our municipal archives that date back to 1642; Cape Ann Museum; Sawyer Free Library; North Shore Art Association; Beauport; Hammond Castle; the Legion; Amvets and other social clubs; Sargent House; several places of worship; Gloucester Daily Times; Annisquam historical building collections; Lanesville; Magnolia’s historic collections; artists/writers estates; Veterans office; our schools; Isabel Babson Memorial Library, and perhaps businesses such as Cape Pond Ice and Gortons. The library plans don’t appear to retrofit their site(s) for this goal.

If incentives and policy supported neighborhood character over less generic construction collages51

that would be wonderful. ¬†It’s not just Gloucester.

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Continue reading “Proposed building plans Sawyer Free Library, City Hall…Whoa! In the news plus the 1973 appeal led by Joseph Garland, universal access, and archives”