Blue Hill library’s main room, called the Main Reading Room, will undergo a renovation next month to provide space for expanded gatherings. RENDERING COURTESY OF ARCHITECT BRUCE STAHNKE

Blue Hill Library plans renovation

BLUE HILL — The library’s living room is about to get a reno, to use the vernacular of our times.

The Blue Hill Public Library announced on Monday impending renovations to the library’s historic Main Reading Room. The room will be rededicated as the “Adelaide Pearson Room,” after the library’s founder. The renovation will include projects on the building’s lower level as well as to the Parker Point Road entrance.

“The resulting changes will provide the community with a versatile and transformable gathering place for up to 186 seated individuals while retaining the room’s role as a library space and fully preserving its historic architectural character,” said Library Director Rich Boulet. “The library will be able to host groups large and small and will be outfitted with state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment, including ‘hearing loops’ for those with hearing aids. Comfortable wooden stacking chairs will be stored in the basement on easy-to-move wheeled carts, along with platforms and portable staging.”

“Being able to host larger gatherings through reconfigurability has been a goal for our library for years,” Boulet continued. “I am excited at the prospect of the library being able to provide a gathering place for community events beyond our current capacity limitations. The versatility provided by this renovation combined with its respect for the library’s historic architecture will make this a treasured community asset.”

The total project cost is estimated at $600,000. Work is anticipated to start mid-February and be finished this summer, according to Boulet.

“Much of the main room’s shelving and furnishings will be rebuilt with retractable wheels, allowing objects that are currently stationary to be moved to create open space,” Boulet said. “The room will accommodate lectures, concerts, movies and panel discussions for groups as small as 50 to as large as 185. Other traditional main room uses like the annual Friends of the Library holiday party and the popular Paint the Peninsula art auction will also be greatly improved by this project.”

To improve access and egress, the granite steps at the Parker Point Road entrance will be repaired and rebuilt with a larger upper landing and a new middle railing added. This entryway work is funded in memory of longtime Blue Hill area resident and former BHPL Board member David Snow.

A new restroom will be installed in the library’s basement area. This will be located near the Elvira Bass Meeting Room, which will also be reconfigured and made more flexible for use by up to 12 people, allowing for tele-meetings, etc.

For years, there has been a call for expanded meeting space in the library, including from participants in a 2015 community survey.

The library serves as a community center not just for the town but also the Blue Hill Peninsula. Films are shown, book groups gather, children meet their tutors, people without internet access or with inadequate service go to the library to work or do homework, people learn how to sew or fix things, play games or discuss issues of the day.
Indeed, the library’s mission is to “open doors to information, culture, community and the world.”

From the beginning, Blue Hill Public Library has been much more than simply a place that lends books, according to library staff.

“The library was nourished, strengthened, and inspired, even horrified and shocked beyond expression to hear [late] founder Adelaide Pearson announce that books were not the main province of this library or of any library; books were merely an incidental byproduct of a cultural institution.”

Boulet, in a 2010 report to the membership, stated, “What is unlikely to change is our role as the hub of the community, the physical space where neighbors meet and share ideas, a place where people of all ages, economic, social and religious backgrounds gather. The library as a venue, and as a forum of free and open exchange of information, I believe will continue to have a market in the community.”

The library said the renovation is made possible by generous gifts from many individuals and foundations, with leadership funding from the Anahata Foundation. A spokesperson for the foundation commented, “We are excited to help bring this major library transformation to life. We hope that the Adelaide Pearson Room will be a wonderful gathering space for the whole community for many years to come.”

Renovation design is by Bruce Stahnke of Stahnke and Kitagawa Architects. Interior work will be provided by Hewes and Company of Blue Hill.

Every effort will be made to minimize disruption to library services, Boulet said. The library staff asks for patience and cooperation as the work is completed.


Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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