Rockport Public Library

Having lived and worked in Rockport for decades, raised children here, and with my office, Priestley + Associates Architecture, in the village downtown, I am passionate about the prospects for a new Rockport public Library. The vigorous debate that we Rockporters are engaged in as we bring this project forward I interpret as an indication of the fondness and pride we hold for the Rockport Library – a cornerstone of our community.

Far more than just a repository for books, the Rockport Library has been a friendly, welcoming resource for all, a part of our town’s identity, and I feel our new building must express this inside and out.

In response to the rejection of the library design proposal that was put before voters last November, I recognized that a better solution was possible, and felt motivated to produce a more suitable and less costly alternative.

Having followed the multi-year deliberations on the future of our Town’s library, and as one of the six finalists solicited by the former Ad Hoc Library Planning Committee, I have had the opportunity to listen to publicly voiced goals and concerns.

In addition to reservations about parking and potential impact to Memorial Park, Rockporters have registered the following concerns about the library building that was proposed at the polls:

  1. the building was too big (at 9,438 gross square feet);
  2. the interior space compromised the parameters outlined by the library committee/consultants;
  3. it was too costly; and
  4. it was unattractive.

Working independently, I have designed a one-story library that fits comfortably on the designated 1 Limerock Street parcel.

Compared to the proposal rejected by voters, my design is 1,053 square feet smaller overall; combined with eliminations of elevator and stair, this smaller design would save the taxpayers approximately $415,250 in construction cost. And its compact one-story design allows it to be run with fewer staff, representing significant savings to the taxpayer – plus offering readily-available staff-to-patron interaction. Despite its smaller gross area of 8,385 square feet, my alternate design contains interior program areas that meet and/or exceed Library Director Ben Blackmon’s Draft Program Analysis areas.

As one who takes pride in crafting buildings respectful of traditional New England architecture, numerous examples of which are right here in Rockport village, I was confident I could create a library that fits comfortably within its setting. I feel it is important that its appearance be welcoming to all, modest in scale, and also an expression of civic pride.

To draw inspiration, I turned to a book in my architectural library, Beautiful in All its Details, the Architecture of Maine’s Public Library Buildings 1878-1942. I feel we deserve a building as handsome as the collection of historic small-town libraries catalogued in this volume.

My sketch elevation of the library exterior incorporates stylistic elements from Rockport’s historic village architecture, including traditional details such as decorative eaves and brackets emulating those on Rockport’s Opera House. Overall, the exterior design is intended to convey a friendly image reminiscent of the original building.

Motivated by genuine concern and concurrence with Rockport citizens’ unease with what was put before them, I have produced this alternative proposal on my own time. I am very pleased with the outcome in terms of functionality, reduced size, and reduced cost. However, I feel the design could become even better with public input, and I have offered the Select Board and the Library Director the opportunity to review this alternate library design.

I welcome any Rockport citizen who is interested to see my alternative library design to contact me, and I will gladly review the drawings at my 23 Central Street Rockport office.

John Priestley lives in Rockport. 

This article originally appeared in the Penobscot Bay Pilot, May 14, 2017.