A big year for the East Greenwich Free Library – the extended celebration of its 100th anniversary – recenty got bigger, with a grant from the Champlin Foundations making it possible to renovate the exterior and add an outdoor “reading terrace.”
The idea was to add more usable space outside the library while restoring the entrance area so it retains a historic feel but also the functionality of a modern library, said library board vice chair Cecelia Hallahan.
“It was really great that Champlin saw that vision – that we have a difficult site and they are really willing to work with us,” Hallahan said. The library is built on a steep hill. Landscape architects Searle & Searle came up with a plan to terrace the grassy area next to Armory Street – allowing for a patio-terrace.
Library director Karen Taylor said they’d had a vision to use more of the outdoor space for many years – it was just a question of raising the money.
“We just don’t have enough space,” she said. “A lot of tutors are using the library and small groups for quiet study. The Silverman Room is booked almost all the time. I wish we had more room, but what we came up with was: outside!”
People have already been using the area in front of the library but it’s crowded with things – a ramp for accessibility, a bike rack, a deposit box. Meanwhile, the grassy areas on both sides are never used.
Last April, Taylor put in a grant application to Champlin and got the good news in late November.
“Over the years, they’ve just been really good to us,” Taylor said of the Champlin Foundations, which supports capital projects for Rhode Island nonprofits. Champlin has supported a number of library projects over the years, including $300,000 for the 2004 addition.
The project, which includes money to fix drainage problems on the Church Street side as well as persistent water problems because of the nonexistent curb on Peirce Street, is estimated to cost $216,000. Library annual appeal money will make up the difference.
The new terrace will have three benches and a wifi signal from the building that will extend there. And, best yet, it will be available all the time, even when the library is closed.
The landscape architect for the project is Searle & Searle Landscape Architects and Planners of Providence, which is renowned for historic landscape projects, said Hallahan.
“They were the right people to tap for this project,” she said. The project should begin in the spring.
“We’re excited,” said Hallahan.