BELLOWS FALLS -- The Rockingham Free Public Library has booked a temporary location in the center of the village for people who have missed the library's services and programs since it closed in mid-May.
The library will reopen at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 24, at the former Merchants Bank at 41 The Square. This will be the library's home until late summer, when its complete renovation is expected to be finished. Library staff and Rockingham town officials hope to reopen the regular location by the end of August.
According to a statement from Youth Services Librarian Sam Maskell, the building's staff had been operating out of a smaller space in the front of the regular location at 65 Westminster St. She told the Reformer some of the library's contents are packed up and whatever is not will be transported to the former Merchants Banks.
Maskell said the collection going to the temporary location will include audiobooks, DVDs, CDs and books that are in high demand. She said the new spot will have adult and youth sections (with four computers in each) as well as open Wi-Fi. The library has been closed to the public since mid-May, though employees have been able to work their jobs inside the building.
"We are so ready to be open. It's been really hard for us. There are people who really need the library's services and this has had a huge impact of their lives," she said. "They don't just have a want -- they have a need."
Rockingham Free Public Library Board of Trustees Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love said the board voted at a meeting Monday to sign a contract with the property's landlord and to appropriate up to $2,000 for moving expenses -- $1,000 for getting to Merchants Bank and another $1,000 for moving back. Though she hopes the library staff can stay under budget, she said it is a relief to have a temporary location.
"It's going to be fun. Everyone will be really happy," she said, adding that it comes at the perfect time because schools will soon close for the summer. "Everyone will feel like life has returned to normal. Even though it is a different location ... it will have the same services people have come to expect from a library."
Maskell said library staff members expect to have everything they need at the temporary location by Tuesday. She said the library's summer reading program will continue, but will be held at different locations throughout the summer.
According to the statement, library materials that are currently checked out are due back by Monday, July 15. Until that time, patrons will not be charged overdue fines. Patrons can return library materials at either the temporary location or in the dropbox near the sidewalk at the 65 Westminster St. location.
The trustees voted 5-1, on Saturday, May 18, to shut down the library in order for renovations to be completed by Engelberth Construction Co. The board had voted previously but had to meet again once its members learned of a state law requiring a minimum of five people voting in the affirmative.
The debate over whether or not to close the library has generated some hostility, as many members of the public feel the shutdown was unnecessary.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.