Maine’s public libraries are not merely repositories of knowledge; they are also important community gathering places that are open to all. WBRC’s concept design for the Ellsworth Public Library renovation and expansion, created in partnership with library specialist Carter Architectural Design, addresses issues that threaten the long-term future of the existing buildings and creates new opportunities that will allow EPL to better meet the needs of the community.
The Tisdale House is the historic heart of the library facility, and is so firmly associated with the public image of the library and the City of Ellsworth that plans for the facility must preserve and protect this important structure for future generations.
As with many urban libraries, the solutions must be executed on the very limited site currently occupied by the facility. The design solution vastly improves the circulation spaces in the building so that space is maximized, security issues and poor lines of sight are corrected, staff workflow is increased, and the buildings will become accessible to all.
The Ellsworth Public Library is growing in key areas of its collections and outreach. Space for genealogical collections, children and young adult programs, technological outreach and public programming space are critical parts of the concept design program.
With this design, the facility will be renovated and expanded according to the following plan:
- The Tisdale House is moved so that a modern foundation and basement space can be provided beneath it.
- A new circulation lobby and browsing space would be constructed between the Tisdale house and the existing 1990 addition. This lobby provides a through-building connection between the library parking lot and the State Street pedestrian entrance to the building.
- A new public multi-purpose meeting space, patterned after the historic carriage house that used to be part of the Tisdale house, would be provided to the east, marking the new pedestrian entrance to the building.
- The existing 1990 addition would be renovated throughout, to provide improved and expanded interior space.
- A new wing is added onto the north side of the 1990 addition, providing additional space for the children’s library and other building functions.
- Site work includes an expanded parking lot to the west of the building, an amphitheater to the east of the building for outdoor festivals and activities, and improvements to the existing park to the south of the building.
A key part of the preservation of the Tisdale House is the construction of a new foundation and basement space that is designed to eliminate problems with water infiltration and failing stone masonry. This basement provides new storage areas that replace space currently located on the lower level of the 1990 addition to the facility. Once this space in the 1990 addition is released from use as storage, it can be converted to a more patron-centered use, providing room for collections, computer labs, small group meeting spaces, and comfortable reading areas, all organized around a view of the Union River.
Renovation of the Tisdale house basement provides access to construct an improved lobby and circulation space for the building. This new lobby creates a vertical and horizontal path connecting interior building spaces in an easily understood and easily supervised way, while providing space for browsing the library collection. This path makes critical connections between library spaces, the parking lot and the eastern pedestrian entrances to the building.
The Genealogy Center is a key feature of the collections at the Ellsworth Public Library. This part of the collection is growing quickly as regional patrons learn about its availability. Dedicated space is needed for these users to come to the library to do their genealogical research. The Center’s collections are in many different formats, including large format and electronic documents, and space is required to service researchers needs for handling and reproducing these items.
The Genealogy Center would be moved from its current location in the 1990 Addition to the bottom floor of the Tisdale House. This frees up space in the main library to expand the general collections of the library. Additional room for the general collections will be created by filling in the two story areas at the east and west ends of the building.
A new wing will be added to the north end of the building. This wing will be centered around teen and young adult collections on the first floor and an expanded children’s library on the second floor. Remaining space in the wing will provide for expanded general library collections and activities.The Carriage House Addition will be designed to support many different kinds of small to middle sized events, from intimate concerts to art shows to community galas. The facility will be placed with its own entrance and support facilities so that it can be conveniently opened at times when the rest of the library is closed. This space would serve as be an important new gathering place in a community where there is a shortage of such facilities.
A key goal of the Ellsworth Public Library renovation is the expansion and improvement of the Children’s Library. In addition, room is needed to house the library’s growing collection, space is needed for the many and varied programs and activities that are held there, and changes are needed to improve oversight and security for staff and patrons.
To achieve these goals, the top floor of the library, including the 1990 addition, the new wing to the north of the building, and the top floor of the circulation lobby would be dedicated to the children’s library.
This provides the needed children’s library space, including areas for collections, reading areas, browsing areas, story areas and even a room for arts and crafts and other hands-on activities. A centrally located circulation and resources desk allows staff to oversee the many activities that happen on the second floor.
The top floor of the Tisdale House would be renovated to house important staff and back of house activities, including administration, staff meeting areas, technical services workshops, computer network control and other key staff support functions.