Castine committee to eye library project

Posted Jan. 03, 2011, at 8:50 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 28, 2011, at 12:28 p.m.

CASTINE, Maine — A plan to expand the Witherle Memorial Library will face one more hurdle this week before the project can get under way.

The proposed addition will go before the town’s Historic Preservation Committee during a meeting set for 4 p.m. Wednesday at Emerson Hall. The committee has done an initial review of the project but still must grant final approval before construction can proceed.

The library passed a major roadblock in November after voters approved a change in the zoning ordinance exempting the library from a requirement to provide additional off-street parking as part of the addition. That vote paved the way for the town’s planning board approval last month.

According to Margery Read, chairwoman of the library’s board of trustees, the 20-by-24-foot addition is about one-third the size of the existing library but, with planned renovations, will provide much more usable space.

“We’ll be able to use the entire basement,” Read said Monday. “This will more than double the usable space in the library.”

The planned addition will include a full basement that will connect with the existing basement, which is used for storage, she said. That entire space will be dedicated for use as a children’s room to support an active children’s program, Read said. She noted that the Witherle library also serves as the school library for the nearby Adams School.

The project will include rearranging space in the existing building to create areas such as a reading room, office space and to provide additional space for the library’s collections. It also will include an elevator that will allow access to both floors of the expanded library.

“This will enhance people’s ability to get to what the library has to offer,” Read said.

On the outside, the addition will match as closely as possible the architectural features of the existing building, although Read noted that the exterior will be stucco and not brick like the original part of the library. The original bricks are 100 years old and are unusual in that they are smaller and a yellowish color. It would have been difficult to match them, Read said.

Voters at the annual town meeting last spring approved the expenditure of $1 million from the Witherle endowment for the project, an amount that should cover the construction and renovation costs, Read said. Although construction of the addition will not begin until spring, when weather allows, the library already has begun working on clearing out the basement.

Library officials hope to keep the library open during the construction, which, Read said, they plan to have completed in time for the library’s 100th anniversary in 2012.

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