RICHMOND — It may be a bit overdue, but after years of residents wrangling over construction proposals ranging from humble to grandiose, its predecessor being torn down because of mold and structural issues, and the lack of an Internet connection delaying its opening, the new Umberhine Public Library is almost ready for residents to check out.
The library is due for a grand opening celebration Saturday. It could open before then – as soon as Tuesday – but only if the library’s connection to the Internet is hooked up. Officials had planned to be open by Richmond Days, which came and went the last weekend of July, but have delayed the opening for the Internet connection and because all the furniture for the new library wasn’t ready.
Librarian Donna McCluskey said Fairpoint Communications workers, following some delays, could have the library ready to open by Tuesday, or at least by the grand opening Saturday, which will take place from 9 a.m. to noon and include a ribbon-cutting and other activities.
Residents have been so anxious for the library to open, anyone working inside the building is likely to be interrupted by passers-by stopping to inquire when it will open, according to Bonnie Dushin, a library trustee.
She thinks folks will like what they see.
“I’m very proud, and Richmond should be proud, to have built a library like this,” Dushin said. “It’s beautiful and efficient.”
It was also a long time coming, trustee Judy deBray noted.
The previous library building, on the same spot at 86 Main St., was torn down in 2011 because mold, a leaky roof, and the lack of a functioning furnace made it uninhabitable. The library operated out of leased space at 164 Main St. from then until closing July 18 so the books and other items could be moved to the newly built library.
But the debate over a new library predates the demolition of the old one by many years.
At the 2008 Town Meeting, residents voted to borrow $300,000 to help fund construction of a new library, but only if library supporters were able to raise an additional $700,000 to pay for what was, at the time, a proposed $1.3 million library. That goal was never met, so the town didn’t borrow the money, and that proposed library was never built.
In 2010 the town took possession of the library from the nonprofit group that had owned it for many years, and also, eventually, got about $250,000 from that group, money from grants and donations made to build a new library.
Plans for a new public library largely languished until resident Steve Musica proposed last year that the town could build a new library for less than the approximately $250,000 in non-taxpayer-provided funds contributed for that purpose. Musica and others worked with volunteers, the town’s public works crew, which did site work, and local contractors who, together this construction season, built the library for about $250,000.
If Musica hadn’t restarted it, deBray said, the library project could have foundered for years.
Selectman Clarence Cummins said the new 3,000-square-foot library would have been a lot more expensive were it not for the contributed and discounted work.
That work included a wide semi-circular circulation desk in the center of the building and a cupola on the roof built and donated by Selectman Gary Poulin, owner of GLP Builders, who said it was something his wife, Marjorie, wanted him to do.
McCluskey estimated the circulation desk could have cost more than $8,000 if they’d had to buy one.
Poulin said he wasn’t sure how many hours he and his crew put into the work, other than “way more than planned,” and noted last week he still had some of it to finish up.
“Gary put a lot of love into it,” McClusky, who has worked at the library for 28 years, said of the curved wooden desk.
Cummins said all the contractors on the project were local.
The town’s public works crew and volunteers recently worked together to move the books and other items from the leased library to the new building.
The building is heated by radiant floor heat. It is built on a slab. Cummins said officials considered building it with a full basement, which could have provided more storage space, but determined they couldn’t afford that option.
The main room of the library has a children’s area in one back corner and a young adult area in the other.
Just inside the entrance is a community room with tables and chairs where people can have meetings. The library’s hours will remain the same: 21 hours a week made up of 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
The black gold-lettered sign from the old library will be hung on a wall inside the new library.