The Shelburne Field House on Athletic Drive will be the new temporary home for Pierson Library while the current library space undergoes its extensive renovation.
And in typical librarian style, Library Director Kevin Unrath has been reading a book on the subject. Unrath this week said he is confident and excited about moving the town’s book collection to a new space for the year that the library construction project will take place.
Gym rats, students and athletes have been spending time at the Field House for years, and now bookworms can get in on the fun in the large, open space provided by the athletic facility in Shelburne village.
The temporary library will occupy the south end of the building, which has ample parking, its own separate entrance, and several rooms with high ceilings, windows, and enough space to hold both books and some library events. The space has formerly housed a day spa, a soccer school, and both spin and yoga studios.
The move into the temporary space is currently anticipated for July 1. Unrath said the exact date might change a little. Permitting for both the temporary space and demolition scheduling on the old space are not yet complete.
The library reconstruction and expansion is part of a $6.5 million project that voters approved last November. It also includes renovations to the historic Town Hall attached to Pierson Library and improvements to the entire municipal campus to address traffic flow and safety. The town offices and fire station are within the same complex.
Moving a library involves a lot of careful planning, Unrath said. He has been reading the book “Countdown to a New Library” by Jeannette A. Woodward, and consulted with people at the South Burlington Public Library, which recently moved into its own temporary space in the University Mall on Dorset Street.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Unrath said. “For example, it’s better to move books on carts rather than in boxes. They stay in order – in boxes there’s no front or back. We’re reusing a lot of the steel shelving because it’s in really good condition.” He said the shelving will be used both in the temporary space and the new library.
The effort will move 38,000 books. Some will have to be put in storage, which Unrath said is still in the negotiating process of being donated, so he could not yet speak further to the details.
To decide which books make it to the temporary space, Unrath said they will use a database the library maintains that keeps track of which books are checked out the most frequently – he emphasized that though the software doesn’t keep track of who checks out the books, it tracks which are the most popular.
Less-popular titles will be stored until the library reopens.
When the actual move occurs, Unrath said, “We will try not to be closed for a long amount of time. Over the next month and a half, patrons will see that the shelves are becoming compacted. We will squeeze as many as we can onto the shelves in the current library before the move over to the Field House.”
The temporary space will be roughly half the size of the current library, but the staff hopes to continue as many programs as possible during the year-long stay at the Field House.
Unrath said the most popular programs such as summer reading will take place at the Town Gym, which will allow for the usual number of participants to attend. Others, such as story time for young children and after-school activities will take place in the temporary space.
One appealing feature of the Field House space was its proximity to Shelburne Community School, Unrath noted, because many students walk to the library after school.
The moves to and eventually from the Field House will be paid for with funds that were included in the original budget for the building project. Rent for the space was included in this year’s operating budget. One further expense is the cost of movers to lift and transport the shelves and carts of books from one location to the other; though library staff and volunteers will be needed to pack and unpack carts, a bidding process with professional movers will take place soon.
Unrath said the Field House owners negotiated a price within the project budget.
The lease is for a year, and the construction on the new space is projected to take about ten and a half months. The upheaval is worth it, Unrath said, for the “wonderful new library to open in summer 2019.”
“It’s so much fun,” he said. “It’s going to be great. I think we’re going to have the best public library in the state of Vermont when it’s done.”