It’s the third day since Abbot Public Library staff swung the front doors open to their new home and welcomed patrons into the former Eveleth Elementary School, 3 Brook Road, after a five-week, Herculean relocation.
From this interim space, library staff will serve Marblehead residents and patrons for roughly the next 18 months as a multi-million dollar renovation to Abbot Public Library plays out.
“We are grateful to all of the people who contributed to the transformation of the Eveleth School into a gem of a library,” said Kimberly Grad, the Abbot Public Library executive director. “We moved thousands of books, shelving, furniture, computers, and art to the space. We are so happy to welcome everyone back to the library.”
Grad was all smiles on Wednesday afternoon as she stood in her new office, now located in a spacious room directly behind the circulation desk and the former elementary school’s principal office.
The remaining morsels of visible proof behind the library’s in-transition existence were leaned up against cabinets, placed on a tiled floor or rested atop a circular table: A large sign reading “Abbot Public Library” in royal purple. The library’s signature “open” and “close” signs. Paintings and pictures of Abbot Public Library displayed on the walls in the 235 Pleasant Street building. All will soon be hung or displayed as staff settle in.
“We are really proud of what we’ve done here,” said Grad over friendly banter between the circulation staff and patrons. “We’ve created a fully functional library.”
The renovation kicks off in December, and substantial completion is eyed for the spring of 2024.
“We are at a juncture which requires upgrades and improvements of systems that are 30 years old. Short term fixes are no longer adequate to sustain our facility,” reads the Abbot Pubic Library’s website’s “renovation news” section. “With major upgrades and replacements of the HVAC, fire alarm and protection, ADA access/stairs, electrical and elevator, the library will continue to be an asset and not a liability to the town.”
Library staff have breathed life into an otherwise lifeless public building. The layout shows signs of a carefully thought-out move: Classrooms have been utterly transformed and designated for specific purposes.
‘It’s like a Hobbit hole’
“It’s so nice,” said Brayden Curtis, 9, when he spoke to his thoughts of the library space. “It’s like a Hobbit hole.”
For those not familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” Brayden’s analogy is quite a compliment – given Hobbit homes are synonymous with comfort. He and his dad are making their way though Tolkien’s legendarium. Gandolf, the grey wizard, is Brayden’s favorite character.
“They’ve finished ‘The Hobbit,’” said Joann Curtis, Brayden’s mom. “They watched the movies, too.”
Joann said they stopped at the library to drop off books.
“They were piling up, and he found a few other things that he liked,” said Curtis as Brayden held out an NBA video game and title from the “The Last Kids on Earth” series. She appreciates the sweat equity and effort that librarians put into the big move.
“Everyone has their own space – which is nice,” she said. “There so many windows here. I love the light coming in.”
Grad, flanked on both sides by shelves of nonfiction books, stood in a long hallway where four important classrooms intersect.
“We have our reference room here with public computers and newspapers,” said Grad. “It’s designed for people who can have conversations with our reference librarian.”
Staff configured an abutting room devoted to public programs. The library planned and published dozens and dozens of November programs.
“It can hold about 49 people,” said Grad. “It’s been left a little bit bare of furniture.”
That will allow for more programatic space like storytelling, lectures, public meetings among other multi-purposes. It’s been outfitted with two state-of-the-art pieces of audio and technological equipment paid for and “kindly provided for by the Second Century Fund.”
“We have this great Bose speaker that’s going to come back with us to the library,” said Grad. “We also have a new smart screen with wonderful new capabilities” – chiefly the ability to stage hybrid public meetings.”
Barbara Norman, who was among Wednesday’s revolving door of patrons, said her children attended Eveleth elementary school.
“It’s wonderful that the town is utilizing an older building and repurposing it,” said Norman. “They are making good use of it. It was a shame to see the building so empty.”
A carefully curated book collection
Row after row of books occupy the elementary school’s gymnasium space. Grad said librarians “carefully curated” the book collection.
“We have 100 percent of our fiction collection – maybe 40 percent of the children’s collection,” said Grad, “but if you add it all together, it’s almost 50 percent of our entire collection.”
The layout possesses “a fits nicely” quality. Folks will find a teen area. A quiet room. The Friends of Abbot Public Library also carved out a cozy corner to collect and sell used books. Proceeds support the library’s programmatic endeavors.
Meanwhile, the children’s room takes up a large classroom at the end of the hallway to the left as one enters. Cavernous windows overlook the newly installed Hobbs Playground and a sprawling green lawn.
“It’s a win all around for us,” said Karen Tal-Makhluf, standing in an aisle of children’s books placed on shelves that came up to her shoulders. “We’re always checking books out, and requesting books.”
As she perused books, her little ones – Ari and Daniella – played at a kid’s table.
“This move brought the library within walking distance of our home,” she said. “I know it’s temporary, but we’re going to take full advantage of it while it lasts.”