Librarians call on local artisans to turn dream into reality
The Jamestown Philomenian Library has been standing in its present location since 1971, although the creation of the library dates back to 1874 when Conanicut Island’s two lending libraries were combined into one. In 1993, a $1.4 million addition was added to the library building, which houses a collection 35,000 books. At that time a children’s room was created as part of the expansion project.
The children’s room has since become one of the library’s special spaces, and now library offi- cials feel that the room could use an update. Lisa Sheley has been the children’s and young adult librarian for two years. She is working with Library Director Donna Fogarty to spearhead a project that they hope will result in an updated look and feel for the room.
The children’s room, with its high ceilings, large windows and Alexandra Kent mural, is already bright and inviting. Sheley feels that some cosmetic updates could make it even more appealing.
“The library was renovated in the early 1990s, so the room has been pretty much the same for the past 20 years,” Sheley said. “It has great bare bones that really add to the feeling of warmth and welcoming for the room right now.”
Sheley said that the updates she is envisioning would make the room more “kid friendly.” Among the renovations would be lower shelving, different paint and new carpeting. She also said she would like to consolidate the computer area, as well as add more space where kids and their parents can sit and read together on couches and chairs. Sheley also dreams of a mini-Beavertail structure in the middle of the room and a permanent puppet theatre that is able to withstand the rigors of constant use by children.
“Just making the room more user-friendly for the kids,” Sheley said.
Sheley plans to seek a Champlin Foundation grant to fund the project. That application is due in April. In the meantime, she hopes to get a group of interested Jamestowners to form an ad hoc committee in order to determine what would be best for the room.
“These are my ideas right now,” Sheley said. “But people with a lot more knowledge of planning, design and space issues might have some really good input on how to best move forward in terms of planning an improved room.”
The librarian hopes that local artisans will be interested in having their work displayed in the children’s room. As an example, she mentions that a local woodworker might be able to create new shelves for the room. “Instead of ordering from a catalogue, maybe we could have a local woodworker working in the room,” Sheley said. “If we wanted to do another mural that compliments Alex’s mural, maybe someone else could come in and give me some ideas. If we have the proper money available, I would rather pay someone local.”
Fogarty said that plans for the children’s room are a part of an overall plan to reconfigure the library’s space. “We’re looking at different ways to use the space that we currently have to make it accommodate some of the needs that patrons have these days,” she said. “The children’s room came into play.”
Two of the reasons that Fogarty would like to see some updates are because it hasn’t been changed in so long and because so many children and parents utilize it.
“The space hasn’t been really looked at in 20 years,” Fogarty said. “It’s a beautiful room and it’s being used constantly to its capacity except that perhaps we need to make it a little more comfortable in terms of ease of use. I know there are very creative people who live in Jamestown who might be interested in helping us out with some ideas, some of their work, or some of their expertise.”
Fogarty said that while the population of Jamestown has remained more or less the same, with the annual increase during the summer months, the library is feeling its seams being stretched. “We were in the process of looking at the whole library, as an entirety, and perhaps a space reconfi guration to better utilize it,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing, and we feel that there are talented people who might want to help us with that.”
Sheley’s expressed her hopes for what the improved children’s room will be upon completion of the project. “A place for the children and adults of Jamestown to come and take out books, but also to come and stay and read, and go on the computer, and feel safe and included within the library atmosphere,” she said. “I would love to have the room, instead of being separate and a place where just the kids go in, or the parents come and get the books and leave, to have them stay for awhile and really experience the new room and all it has to offer.”
Sheley said that anyone interested in helping with the room can contact her at 423-7280 or jamlib firstname.lastname@example.org.