With new media labs, tutorial rooms, ample space for programming, as well as a wider selection of library materials for adults and children, a larger, more modern version of the existing Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth is on track to reopen in early 2016.

“We’re hopeful that the building will be completed in December,” said library director Jay Scherma. “Then we will move back in and be open in late January. What we are looking forward to most is some really improved space that patrons will find not just attractive, but comfortable.”

Construction crews from Freeport-based Zachau Construction began the long-awaited renovation and expansion project this spring after voters approved a $4 million bond in November to update the aging library.

In order to make way for a new, energy-efficient two-story addition, crews had to remove a 1985 building that extended from the original Pond Cove School annex, the most prominent section of the library facing Scott Dyer Road, to the former Spurwink School, where the library has been operating since January. The school building is not included in the new library plans.

According to Scherma, town councilors will be discussing the future of the school building, which has primarily served as the children’s section of the library for many years, at an upcoming meeting.

“They have received a number of suggestions from people about what should be done with it,” said Scherma, “and my understanding is that they will consider all of the options and devise a plan on how to refurbish it.”

A temporary dirt parking lot has been created on the property so patrons can continue to visit the library during the construction, which is about 40 percent complete, Scherma said.

“It’s actually starting to look like a building now,” he said.

While patrons can now access 43 percent of the library collection on-site, additional materials can be retrieved through an interlibrary loan.

“Admittedly, it’s been difficult for people to see that we are open,” said Scherma. “I think some people are intimidated by the construction, when they really needn’t be.”

But overall, “we’re actually doing quite well in here,” he said of the temporary location to the Spurwink School. “We continue to purchase books and audio-visual materials at the same rate we purchased them last year. We continue to run children’s programming, and are still running our book groups for adults.”

Cape Elizabeth resident Alison Morton, who recently visited the library, said it’s always been a favorite place in town for her family to visit.

“I am looking forward to having our library back,” said Morton. “Not having it, I really feel the absence of it. I am looking forward to it reopening and being part of our community again.”

So far, Scherma is pleased with the progress of the project, which increases the overall size of the library from about 14,500 square feet to 16,000 square feet. While some of the original features of the 103-year-old Pond Cove annex will be retained, he said, the library as a whole will appear very different to visitors.

“You will walk into the building and the only thing you will recognize is the placement of the windows in the Pond Cove annex,” Scherma said.

‘Highly adaptable’

The library’s lower level will become the children’s area and offer flexible space for programs, while the upper level will house the adult and young adult collections, and include several study spaces and media labs.

A new elevator will also be available for patrons, and a service desk will be located both downstairs and upstairs. Patrons will also have the option to borrow materials through centrally located self-checkout areas.

Library plans, created by Reed & Co. Architecture of Portland, also add a new “Family Place,” where children will be able to play with developmental toys, as well as a spacious community room with soft lighting and a ceiling-mounted projector for showing movies or PowerPoint presentations. There will also be a new conference room, which the library hasn’t had in more than 15 years due to lack of space, Scherma said.

“In the new space, we will have a separate room provided (for meetings) on the adult level, adjacent to the circulation areas,” he said. “My personal belief is the two tutorial and study rooms are going to be incredibly popular, as well as the two media rooms.”

One of the media labs will have computers and a green screen for producing videos, while the other lab will have space for playing video games, which Scherma believes adults will also find attractive.

“Our experience across the country has been that the senior citizens find the Wii consoles to be good for mobility,” he said.

But, Scherma said library staff is predicting that the new library will appeal especially to local students.

Manasa Gali, a student at Cape Elizabeth High School, who visited the library recently with her brother, Ajay, said she enjoys going there when she has free time from school. She is excited about being able to have more books to choose from when the new library reopens, she said.

Library assistant Adrian Alexander said he is looking forward to having additional space to provide more library materials, and to be able to offer more programs and events for children and adults.

“Previously, we had very limited space,” Alexander said.

A quiet reading and study space will be located in the non-fiction section of the library. A pedestrian connection is also being created between the library and the adjacent elementary school, as well as an outdoor play space, a reading garden and a small outdoor pavilion for performances.

“The building is highly adaptable for future uses,” Scherma said.

Although the Thomas Memorial Library Foundation has met its fundraising goal of $700,000 for library furniture, fixtures and equipment, the group continues to accept donations for furnishings and future programming, Scherma said.

Overall he thinks that residents and other visitors will be happy with the result of the project.

“I think people will be really excited about it,” said Scherma of the new library. “It will be much more efficient.”

The Thomas Memorial Library in Cape has been a busy construction zone since renovations began earlier this year.Walls of the new addition at Thomas Memorial Library were erected the first week of July as part of a $4 million renovation and expansion project.Staff photos by Kayla J. CollinsAn employee from Zachau Construction of Freeport works on the roof of the Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth. The library is undergoing $4 million worth of upgrades.Staff photo by Kayla J. CollinsManasa Gali, right, and her younger brother, Ajay, make a recent visit to the former Spurwink School, where the Thomas Memorial Library is temporarily located, to check out some books. The Galis are looking forward to the new library reopening in January 2016.  

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