The new 6,800-square-foot Children’s Wing at the East Hampton Library, nearing completion and slated for a December opening, could not have had a better physical test than the September 3 downpour. Although much of the interior is still in the rough, a tour led by Library Director Dennis Fabiszak the morning after the deluge turned up not one drop of water, not even in the new four-foot deeper basement. Of course, board president Donald L. Hunting is not surprised.
“Dennis’s attention to detail,” one of the main reasons he was hired, was to preclude problems that usually plague construction projects.
Well, says Fabiszak, in return, the interview he had seven years ago went both ways: one of the main reasons he accepted the position, two years after the Children’s Wing project had been initiated, was his faith in the board that the project would be brought in as promised—as a privately funded and aesthetically satisfying community-sensitive addition to the century-old “Kentish looking” brick-and-wood building with its leaded glass windows, the eighth such addition the library has sustained in harmony with earlier sections and with surrounding grounds. Reports from immediate neighbors have been “100% positive,” Fabiszak notes, with folks saying “it blends right in.” The project also includes an expanded and enhanced parking lot, with creative landscaping from Marders. Inside, there will be an all-floors elevator and high-closet areas that will make for efficiency and allow for cost-saving onsite storage.
“Not many libraries in the country could have done it with private funds,” Fabiszak points out. The 22-member board looks to realize $1.3 million, in addition to the $4.5 million already expended on the wing.
“Children” is a broad term. The addition differentiates among various age groups. There’s a room just for high school/young adults, with its own librarian and another for younger teens, with an information desk that resembles a boat and vinyl flooring that simulates water. The section dedicated to the lower grades will also be divided, starting with a toddler space nearest the new entrance. (Plans call for a new part-time librarian and a new part-time assistant.) The rooms will have their own age-appropriate reading materials, electronics and planned activities, and some items will no doubt find their way into a children’s addition time capsule. Significantly, the design reflects focus group suggestions. Teens, for example, asked for a fish tank, particular computer spaces and display areas for photography contest winners. Staff intuited other needs, including special DVD rooms for film and music.
There will be a green area, created by The East Hampton Garden Club, and strategically placed windows will let in light on all levels in all seasons. A high-ceiling, wood-paneled meeting room will promote new programs, like simulcasts from the New York Public Library. There will also be a book sale room, a new main entrance in the back, and a “cloister hallway” that will connect new and old passageways.
Hunting speaks quietly and with affection as to the why of the Children’s Wing. “This library has a lot of history,” he says, “this is a great town, and the board and supporters see themselves as ‘stewards’ of the building for another 100 years.” Although the library boasts a nice collection of children’s materials, Fabiszak admits that because of limited space, acquisitions have been on the “low end of the totem pole,” as compared to other libraries. The new wing will bring the children’s collection “storming into the 21st century.”
The idea is to make the new facility a place “to use and learn in,” Fabiszak adds, and a place to foster community. He notes with pride that during Superstorm Sandy the library was open every day, a resource as well as an archive. Hunting nods in agreement, noting that the weather vane has been moved to the 114 side, pointing the way.