BELLOWS FALLS -- The Rockingham Free Public Library will be closed today and Friday for the installation of custom-made metal shelving, which Municipal Manager Willis "Chip" Stearns II previously said will complete the building's renovation.
Items will not be due back during the closure, though library materials can be returned in the dropbox near the sidewalk in front of the building.
The library's board of trustees voted in May to close the building so renovations could get finished and it reopened to the public on Friday, Nov. 1. The soft opening brought several members of the public through the front doors to use library services for the first time in six months and the building's staff was elated to be back home.
But Stearns told the Reformer he would consider the renovations truly completed once the customized metal shelving arrived. He said the new shelves were designed by Tucker Library Interiors, of Manchester, N.H., and manufactured in Massachusetts. Stearns said the old shelves were 80 to 100 years old and were scrapped during renovations.
Stearns has come under criticism from some library trustees who say they have not been kept adequately updated on the renovation project, which went over budget. But Stearns defended himself in a string of e-mails to library trustees. Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee told the Reformer that going over budget was most likely inevitable due to the issues with Baybutt Construction Corp., the company originally selected as the project's general contractor before running into financial trouble and having its contract terminated. MacPhee said numerous items were dropped from the initial wishlist in order to save money. He also defended Stearns' decision to get new shelves, saying it would have cost nearly as much to reinstall the older, less attractive shelving.
MacPhee also publicly came to Stearns' defense at a joint meeting with the library trustees on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
"Chip traveled to the library every day, even on weekends, and spent countless hours working with (the project supervisor)," he said. "The library is only opened today because of Chip Stearns. He took on the new obligations admirably and this was in addition to his normal duties as municipal manager."
Library staff has requested the help of volunteers to assist with unpacking and reshelving the adult collection from Monday, Dec. 9, to Sunday, Dec. 14. Anyone interested in volunteering can call the library at 802-463-4270.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.