By David Rosner, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Long running work to expand and modernize the Grafton Public Library is rapidly nearing completion this spring.
With brick siding going up and interior work beginning, local officials are excited about everything from new space for community meetings and events, to automated machines that will help staff pre-sort collection materials within their new facility.
Addition rebrands Grafton library
Library Director Beth Gallaway began building community support for this project before 2016, eventually fully funding what was a $16.6 million renovation and expansion of her library.
Through this, Gallaway is aiming to transform the library’s image from a warehouse of books to a community meeting place, consulting with the Grafton Historic District as well as the Massachusetts Historical Commission to ensure the new library pays homage to its predecessor without duplicating or detracting from it.
New construction comes after previous attempts
Previous directors of the Grafton Public Library had successfully secured funding through a series of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners grants. Those payouts would have helped renovate and expand the facility to meet community needs.
But after residents twice opted not to approve required matching town funding, both grants fell through.
Seeking to do things differently this time Gallaway and her colleagues conducted a year’s worth of town surveys, focus groups and research to figure out the exact type of library the community needed.
After this endeavor, they hired Drummey Rosane Anderson, Inc., an architectural firm well-versed in Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program grants, historic renovations, LEED buildings and public projects. According to Gallaway, Anderson Inc. also generally understood her team’s collective vision for this effort.
Grant funding opens door to project progress
Grafton officials got permission to apply for partial grant funding for this project back at the town’s October 2016 Town Meeting. Officials then submitted their application in January 2017.
That summer, the Town received a $7.4 million award, leaving taxpayers to foot a $9.2 million bill to fully fund the new library.
Construction gets underway
As of February 1, builders had spent $12.013 million to move through 70 percent of library construction. Among other elements, crews had laid foundations, assembled steel framing, added walls, windows and roofing, and even begun assembling interior spaces.
As this addition will sit alongside part of the original library structure, crews have also paid attention to necessary improvements to damaged historic slate roof shingles, masonry and limestone.
Once open, the new library will offer a community space with room for up to 117 people. That space will have kitchen access, a presentation area and a baby grand piano.
Students and adults will be able to utilize study rooms and design elements will allow the library to decrease the required staffing levels normally required for a building of this size.
An “automated materials handler” will scan item barcodes and pre-sort materials into bins to aid organization efforts.
Self-service computer sign-ups, vending, print release, and self-checkout, along with low shelving and optimized sightlines will further free up library staff to help visitors with their often hidden and sometimes underused services.