FOWL update refines what new Winthrop library should provide Based on variety of community input and growth data
BY DON NELSON
A needs assessment for Winthrop’s new public library is helping the facility’s supporters narrow in on what the building should contain and provide, the Town Council learned last week.
Shannon Polson, chair of Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL), the nonprofit group that is coordinating and raising funds for the project, told the council that although the library will be in Winthrop it is being conceived of as a community-wide resource.
The town has purchased a .81-acre parcel on White Avenue as the site for a new library, at the intersection of White Avenue and Norfolk Road,
Since early 2017, FOWL has been promoting construction of a new library to replace the overcrowded, outdated building on Highway 20, which was never anticipated to be a permanent site for the library. FOWL will build the library with privately generated funds and then turn it over to the town. The North Central Regional Library (NCRL) system, of which the Winthrop library is a part, will provide all the furnishing and equipment for the new building, as well as maintenance.
Construction is projected to begin in spring 2020 with completion about a year later.
Polson noted that the Winthrop library has the highest per-capita circulation of any NCRL branch, and is also a popular Wi-Fi spot that even draws visitors who want to get online.
The needs assessment included eight community conversations with more than 40 participants, a town survey that drew 70 responses, several focus groups for library staff, volunteers and local teens, an NCRL survey that drew more than 100 participants, and a “Hopes and Dreams” workshop last December that drew about 60 attendees.
Pulling all that together, along with data about the valley’s population and expected growth, FOWL created a list of “key takeaways” about what the community wants, Polson said.
Those include light-filled spaces, a workable community gathering space and meeting rooms, separate areas for teens and younger children, “cozy” places to read, up-to-date technology and expanded programming for adults and children.
Polson said the library “couldn’t be at a better location” to serve all those needs and connect to other town amenities.
Motivating the project, Polson said, are factors such a growing rural technology divide, the need to address the valley’s poverty challenges, and a growing senior population as well as steadily increasing school enrollment.
Preliminary conceptual sketches show an 8,400-square-foot “footprint” for the building that addresses the major findings of the needs assessment, Polson said. The plan will continue to evolve as FOWL solicits more community input, she said.
The next step is selection of an architect, Polson said. Meanwhile, FOWL is continuing its major-donors fundraising campaign. The group may be able to apply for sizeable foundation grants, she said, but needs to establish a substantial commitment of matching funds first. FOWL expects to hire a part-time executive director in the near future, Polson said.