Rockport Library Committee hosts Listening Tour
Rockport — The Rockport Library Committee invites all residents and library patrons to a Listening Tour of the five villages that comprise Rockport.
The series of workshops kicks off Tuesday, Oct. 22 at Rockport Masonic Center and Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Rockport Opera House at 6:30 p.m., and continues throughout November and December. Meetings will be publicized as soon as dates and locations have been finalized.
“Whether you visit the Rockport Library every week or have never set foot inside, whether you walk to the library from within Rockport Village or drive from Glen Cove, this is your town library,” said Library Committee Chairman Kathleen Meil in a news release. “We want to meet your needs, and to do that, we need to hear from you.”
The Listening Tour is designed to find agreement about what Rockport wants and needs from its library, and will focus on library services rather than physical space or location. Each meeting will be facilitated by Jane Haskell, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension professor with more than 20 years of experience in community development and facilitation.
“In my work with citizens throughout the state, I consistently find that everyone has an opinion about how their town works and has ideas about how it can do better,” said Haskell. “In reality, in most towns, there is a vocal minority and the many villages and neighborhoods feel neglected. I am excited to work with each Rockport neighborhood listening session to hear different (and similar) ideas. This will increase the ability for everyone to be able to share their thoughts about the future of the services that will take Rockport’s library into the next decade and beyond.”
The Listening Tour is part of the ongoing conversation about the future of the Rockport Library, which will celebrate its centennial next year.
“We have a library that is cherished by more people than can actually use it,” said Meil. Library attendance, circulation, and programming have skyrocketed since the library’s fourth and most recent expansion 20 years ago.
It was clear from a well-attended summer workshop of the Select Board and Rockport Library Committee that, despite a multi-year study funded by the Davis Family Foundation, there is not a town-wide consensus about what the community needs and expects from the library.
The Davis grant made possible an assessment of needs, an evaluation of the library’s current site and because expansion on the existing library is limited by current zoning restrictions, the development a conceptual design for a new library on an alternate site. The process involved library staff, other town department heads and committee chairs, a building committee, and outside professionals from various fields, including library science, engineering, and architecture.
In light of this study, the Library Committee proposed that the town move the library from the center of Rockport Village to the former Rockport Elementary School site on West Street, a site that is still in the village confines, but at the corner of routes 1 and 90. Some residents took issue with that proposal and requested that the town reevaluate the possibility of expansion on the current site.
“Any building project — whether an expansion on the current site or new construction on another site — must meet the need of our community,” said Meil, “so it’s essential that we come to an agreement about what our library can and should achieve for Rockport.”
Attendance at the village meetings is not limited to those living in those villages, and the Library Committee encourages residents from any part of town to attend a meeting at their convenience.