WINTHROP — Residents anxious to see the planned expansion to the Charles M. Bailey Library on Bowdoin Street begin should see signs of activity there by the end of the summer.

Dale Glidden, chairman of expansion steering committee, said the contractors are bidding on the project, which should allow construction to begin in early September. The plan is to have the addition enclosed before winter. The entire project is expected to take about six months, Glidden said.

Project supporters, who have raised more than $800,000 of the $1 million needed for the expansion, wanted to wait until they had enough to pay for the entire project before sending it out to bid. Town Councilors, who approved the project last week, helped reach the goal by including $300,000 for the project in a larger bond encompassing other town needs. Glidden said fundraising will continue until the $300,000 is repaid.

“The intention is to raise all the funds necessary for the construction,” Glidden said. “We have the money to start the project.”

Though the library is an independent department led by a board of trustees, the town owns the property.

“The Town Council has been extremely supportive,” Glidden said.

The former Masonic hall, which was next to the library, was torn down in April to make room for the expansion. The steering committee has one year to build the foundation in the hall’s footprint, which did not conform to town codes. If the construction is delayed beyond a year, the grandfather provision would expire and the committee would lose the ability to build on the site.

Glidden has said library officials are worried that their budget could become obsolete if they waited to raise the full $1 million.

The two-story addition, which includes a daylight basement on two sides, will more than double the size of the existing library from 3,300 square feet to 8,400. The existing building will be retrofitted with new heating and ventilation systems, architect Philip Locashio said. The addition, while similar in tint and texture to the existing stone building, will not be identical. The existing library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Registry officials prefer to see additions to such buildings stand out from the original structures, Locashio said.

“We’re not trying to compete,” he said. “We’re trying to complement it.”

The addition will be squeezed among the street on the front, the existing library and the town’s utility building on the sides, and a garage in the back. Locashio said the addition will come within six feet of the garage.

“It’s a very tight site,” he said.

Glidden said the lack of land around the library makes it more important that the planned expansion is done right.

“You only get one bite at the apple,” he said. “We’re not going to add on to this building.”

The main entrance will move from the current location, which are steps leading up to the door, to a ground-level ell that connect the existing building and the addition. The change will make the building much more accessible to those who are disabled, Library Director Richard Fortin said. The wheelchair entrance now consists of a freight lift at the back of the building.

“Now you can come in and go up a couple of steps and the whole library will be on one floor,” Fortin said.

There will be an interior lift in the new foyer next to the steps for those who use wheelchairs.

The current library is packed tightly with shelves, which in spots make it difficult to navigate between stacks. Fortin said every inch of that shelving is necessary to hold the library’s collection of books. Unable to expand outward, library officials have instead gone up to create more shelf space. Consequently, the top row of books is more than 6 feet above the floor, making it nearly impossible for everybody to see them.

“If you add anything, you have to take something out,” Fortin said. “We can’t add to our collection.”

The addition will not only allow room to grow; it also will allow the library to lower stacks to make all the books visible without a stool, which will save considerable time. He said the library circulates about 5,000 books per month. That number jumps to about 6,000 during the summer.

The main floors will feature an open design to allow the stacks, computer terminals and furniture to be re-arranged.

“You just have to move them around, and you can do what you want,” Glidden said.

The children’s area will be moved from the basement, where there are problems with humidity and flooding, to the main floor, Fortin said. The basement will continue to be used as a place for community gatherings.

“It was never meant to be used as a library,” Fortin said of the basement.

The addition’s bottom floor will feature an event room with seating for about 125 people, Fortin said. The library has regular programs for adults and children, which is difficult in the existing space.

“Right now we have to empty the room when we have an event,” Fortin said.

The building will feature upgrades in infrastructure for electronics.

“You try to anticipate what’s going to happen 10 years from now,” Locashio said. “It’s impossible.”

The Bailey library continues to be well used and acts as an anchor of downtown Winthrop. Surveys taken before the effort began showed overwhelming support for the library, Glidden said.

“This building brings people downtown,” he said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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