Council calls for finalized plans for new Thomas Memorial Library, Cultural Center
The Town Council moved forward on a proposal for a new Thomas Memorial Library this week, calling on the library trustees to finalize and present a cultural-center plan that includes a projected operating budget for programs, staff and utility costs for the new facility.
Finalizing a plan is one of the recommendations in a planning and fundraising feasibility study completed for the trustees by Demont Associates. One of the findings of the report was that a vision and focus on a cultural center, rather than a library, resonated with many of the 57 residents interviewed for the study. Interviewees also responded to the need for flexible space to meet the changing needs of technology.
Councilors discussed the report at a workshop meeting Feb. 6, 2012, and at their meeting Feb. 13 voted on four actions to move the project forward:
- Request the Trustees of the Thomas Memorial Library finalize and present to the town council a cultural center plan which optimizes functionality and accessibility of space and resources, adaptability for current and emerging technology and which emphasizes programming and resources for youth. As part of this plan, a pro forma operating budget should be prepared for programs, staff and utility costs for the new facility.
- Request the town manager work with the Trustees and the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society to re-evaluate the space needed for archival storage in the proposed new facility.
- Request the town council chairman, the finance committee chair and the town manager to work with school officials and others to evaluate capital needs in light of the upcoming retirement of debt service payments for past school projects.
- Request the town manager include in his recommended FY 2013 budget funds for part-time library staff so that the library director and the children’s librarian may free up time for project planning and for implementation of enhanced library programming
The actions passed 5-2, with councilors Jessica Sullivan and Kathy Ray opposed. Sullivan said she objected to the third recommendation because she did not feel that anecdotal reports on other capital needs were appropriate for decision-making about the library. Ray, a former member of the School Board, said she believed meeting separately with board leadership would present capital needs out of the context of the entire school budget.
Other councilors, however, said they favored assessing capital needs townwide as long as it did not delay action on the library. Councilor David Sherman said he did not see information on other needs as a prerequisite for moving forward.
The four actions support some of the recommendations outlined in the planning study, but they stop short of the full list of recommendations, and those proposed by Town Manager Michael McGovern at the Feb. 6 workshop. Those included inviting the Thomas Memorial Library Foundation, the fundraising arm of the library, to conduct a fundraising campaign in support of a new library and cultural center; providing $50,000 to the foundation as seed money for hiring a professional fundraising consultant; and, inviting the foundation and library board of trustees to prepare a plan for naming opportunities to present to the council.
The fourth recommendation approved by the council, to provide funds for part-time library staff, did not include the $40,000 amount suggested by McGovern at the workshop. The third recommendation, the one contended by Sullivan and Ray, initially called for consultation with only the School Board and officials, not "and others" as the approved action states.
Meeting with library foundation leaders
Although the Town Council did not act specifically to fund the fundraising, they did respond to a request for dialogue from the Thomas Memorial Library Foundation. At the workshop, councilors agreed to have two representatives, Jim Walsh and Chairman Sara Lennon, meet with foundation leadership after the Feb. 20-24 school vacation.
In 2009, the ad hoc Thomas Memorial Library Study Committee presented a final report and a concept design for a new library at the present location on Scott Dyer Road. The report included an exhaustive list of deficiencies in the library buildings, the oldest of which dates back to 1849. In 2011, architects submitted a revised concept utilizing a smaller footprint and retaining the look of the 1912 Pond Cove School Annex portion of the building.
Projected cost of the entire project is estimated at $8.5 million, but final plans and costs have yet to be decided. The Demont Associates' planning study, completed in January 2012, suggests a campaign to raise $1.5 million to $3 million be initiated before the town looks to hold a referendum to bond the remainder.
One of the findings of the report was that a vision and focus on a cultural center, rather than a library, resonated with many of the residents interviewed for the study. Interviewees also responded to the need for flexible space to meet the changing needs of technology.
One of the goals adopted by the Town Council, also at its Feb. 13, 2012 meeting, is to schedule a citizen vote on a new vision and facility for the Thomas Memorial Library and Cultural Center.