A New Library Emerges From the Old

by Bill Peak

Yesterday I had to pick up a prescription at Hill's, which meant I had an excuse to drive through town on my way to work. I never pass up an opportunity to drive by the new Easton library now taking shape at 100 West Dover Street.

Of course it hasn't always been this way. When the renovation first began, it broke my heart to see our old building (a place that seemed to me semi-sacred) so bruised and insulted—walls knocked out, flooring ripped up and tossed into the yard, plumbing and conduit laid bare. But then they began digging the geothermal wells and I grew fascinated by the size of the bit they used to drill their shafts. The thing stood at least two stories tall and every time it rose from the earth—great looping coils of marine clay peeling from its screw like anaesthetized pythons—I was reminded of the Biblical injunction against building your house on sand. No wonder we all shook so hard during last summer's earthquake, we sit atop our beloved peninsula's wobbly substrates like a toy boat on a tub full of jello.

The same crew boss that stared daggers at me last winter when I drew too close to his drill was taking a break with a couple of other men when I drove by yesterday. No hard looks this time, their work nearly done, the end in sight. I wonder what their view is of the building now unfolding from their efforts? I confess my own, until yesterday, was vague. Over the past year I've left matters of aesthetics to the higher pay-grades and concentrated instead on unexciting things like shelving and the placement of our public computers. As a result, when I got my first good look at the building now emerging on West Dover Street, I was, I admit, unprepared for the beauty of the place.

The first thing I noticed was the way the old building's brick façde has been replaced in the new children's wing by walls constructed almost entirely of glass. Little ones playing and learning in this space will feel as if the outdoors has joined them indoors. Yet for all its open airiness, the new wing remains a private place, its security preserved by a brick wall that wraps around its glassy exterior like a pair of warm, encircling arms. A special children's garden will be planted within the semi-circle created by this wall.

Driving east up Federal Street, I was surprised to discover a long thin clerestory riding the main wing's roofline like an elegant little Japanese pagoda. I was so struck by the beauty of this view, I drove around the building a second time and realized additional clerestories become visible from West Dover. Indeed, from this side, the library's roofline becomes a sort of mini-acropolis, surmounted by not one but several perfect little pagoda-like temples. One is reminded of Frank Lloyd Wright's graceful “prairie style.”

But don't take my word for it, drive by West Dover Street the next time you get a chance and check out the new library for yourself. I think you'll find, like me, that the people of Talbot County have much to be proud of. We have created a thing of beauty.