Old Firehouse Design Group Peers Into Snow Library's Future

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Snow Library , Orleans news

Joining in a discussion of the future of the Snow Library – inside and out – are members of the Old Firehouse design group and library staff, trustees, and Friends.  ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANS Supporters are dreaming big about what shape Snow Library should take in the next decade. On Oct. 28, members of the Old Firehouse design group encouraged them to think even bigger.

The group, a collection of architects, planners, and other involved citizens, has offered advice on projects ranging from the above-named firehouse to streetscape planning, intersection redesigns, and walkways intended to foster a vital downtown. Last week, they joined library staff, trustees, and members of the Friends of Snow Library for a brainstorming session.

Librarian Tavi Prugno started with the most practical dream: $40,000 for a space needs study that would provide the data to support applications for state grants.

Given the building's important location, Andrea Shaw Reed, vice chair of the planning board and a Firehouse member, said planners could “not only change the view of the library from the inside, but also think about changes in the neighborhood.”

Firehouse colleague and architect Peter Haig of Architectural Designs, Inc., held up a map and asked, “What does the site tell us?” The library is bordered by Nauset Regional Middle School and open space, and the site features “incredible topography” that might allow building into the hill on which the school sits. Parking, he said, could be located beneath the building. Such changes, he said, “would make this a walking village” with the library as both a destination and a very important path to other elements of the village.

The library, Haig said, could be a central feature of a possible path from Boland Pond to downtown – a “mini-version of (Boston's) Emerald Necklace.”

“We're almost there,” said library trustees president Cheryl Bryan. “I've done that walk.”

Haig asked the planners to consider an “organizing principle” for a new or expanded building. “Is it water? Could it be just light? Windows facing toward the green? Maybe themes from the original library (destroyed by fire in the 1950s)?”

Talking about establishing themes, Firehouse member Peter Kelsey, a retired architect, spoke about designing a flag for the town.

“What is Orleans?” he recalled asking. “What do we want to say about it? I ended up with water; we're surrounded by water. We can celebrate the sunrise coming out of the Atlantic and having it set on Cape Cod Bay.”

Haig asked about moving the library toward the street, perhaps with a walking connection to Friends Market. He said the Firehouse group is hopeful that the market itself will someday move closer to Main Street, with parking relocated on the site. Reed urged the library group to consider hanging fabric on the building facing Main Street to draw attention to Snow's offerings, citing examples such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

After expanding their horizons, the library group talked again about the interior needs of the building.

“One of the things people hope to find in a library is a zone of refuge,” Bryan said, “and now our quiet reading room is right next to our children's room.” She cited the need for more, and more flexible, meeting rooms, and for technology upgrades that could let patrons enjoy university courses from Boston through distance learning programs.

At meeting's end, Robert Singer, a past president of the Friends, had a formula for what he wants Snow Library to be: “The intellectual, cultural, and community center of Orleans.”

That prompted Kelsey to recall “one of the last questions I ask a client: What do you want your structure to say to the community about you?”

To which Singer responded, “Welcome.”