Long-term projects and planning at the library
Construction has resumed at the Island Free Library on the multi-part window and shingle replacement project that started last year. The project is largely funded by a grant from the Champlin Foundation.
Library Director Kristin Baumann told the Library Board of Trustees that lots of work had been performed the past weekend. “The crew varies in size,” she said.
Baumann chuckled at some unanticipated problems, though. The windows, purchased in August, were too large to fit in the construction trailer and were currently being stored elsewhere in the library. “There’s lots of tension between staff and the [construction workers] on parking,” she said, but things have been worked out for the most part. “We’ve come to a place where we will have some patron parking and the handicapped parking.”
As far as alternative parking, the National’s parking lot will not be available as there will also be construction soon there.
“Everybody has to make some concessions,” said Trustee Dave Sniffen. The handicap space though, he said “is not up for debate.”
As far as when the project will be done, Baumann said, “There’s too much at play to know,” but the contractor’s goal is May 1.
A big unknown for Baumann and the trustees is whether painting of the interior window trim is included in the cost of the project. They were disappointed that Facilities Manager Tom Risom was not at the meeting to answer questions or provide an update, but Sniffen said he would ask. If the painting is not included, they will need to put that in their annual capital budget request for the next fiscal year that is due next week.
Major repairs to the HVAC system are also needed, and Trustee Shirlyne Gobern said it was a project that needed to go out to bid because the anticipated cost was more than $10,000.
“I was hoping it was maintenance,” said Baumann. “It’s breaking, it’s loud.” Even the National is complaining about the noise she said because it emits a banging noise.
There’s already $50,000 in the capital budget this year for HVAC repairs, and more in the next two years for different phases of the project. “They went in like that because when one fails,” said Baumann, “the others will fail.”
Baumann is also concerned about the carpeting. She felt she got by this summer only because they were professionally cleaned. “Do we want to do a floor at a time?”
“That’s how we did it years ago,” said Gobern.
When Baumann gave her director’s report she touched on some staff matters.
There’s a new face at the library, but only temporarily. His name is Winfield Swanson and he is a graduate student from URI doing an internship on the island. His first visit to the library was as part of the Contemporary Theater Company that performed “As You Like it” this summer. It’s the first time Baumann has had an intern from URI and she said it was good to develop a relationship with the program there. Swanson will be at the library for two half-days per week for the rest of the semester.
In the coming weeks Baumann will also be doing staff reviews and evaluations. “Because I cleaned out my office [for carpet cleaning] I found a big pile of personnel policies,” that she is thinking of reviewing. “That’s on my brain.”
Baumann also gave an update on the Friends of the Island Free Library, a separate not-for-profit group that supports the library. The Friends haven’t been able to do much for the past couple of years due to Covid, but they are starting up again in earnest with the performance of the play “Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire” performed by Michele LaRue on Saturday, October 1, at 5 p.m.
The Friends have also made a generous donation of a Charlie Cart for the library. “They were very excited to do that,” said Baumann. A Charlie Cart is a mobile kitchen that is used for educational purposes and it comes with a curriculum, training opportunities, and recipes.
Baumann said it would be a good fit with the food pantry at the library and teaching people how to cook. “Food literacy is very big in libraries right now,” said Baumann.
The Library has made its own “donation” recently. A posting to the Block Island Bulletin Board by the group Queer Block Island thanking various businesses for donations to the Block Island Pride listed the library as having made a donation in the $1,000 to $5,000 range. This raised some eyebrows for some in the Block Island community.
In response to questions asked of both The Block Island Times and the library about the donation, Baumann told The Times that it is normal for them to pay for programs and performers from funds raised from book and candy bar sales. It’s discretionary money that the library raises and does not come out of the operational budget, which is funded by taxpayers. This year, instead of the paying those who performed at the library as part of Block Island Pride directly, the library was asked to give the money to Queer Block Island, which would cover the payment themselves.