Excitement, admiration as new library opens

Jan 27, 2020

The much-awaited North Dartmouth Library branch is open for business following months of construction and permitting delays.

New branch librarian Sharani Robins unlocked the doors for a handful of people waiting outside 211 Cross Road at 9 a.m. on January 27 for a soft opening.

They had come to drop off books and check out the brand-new building.

Ground was broken on the $10.5 million project in July 2018. It had been slated to open after construction ended in October 2019, but numerous issues — including with phones, landscaping, drainage, occupancy permits, and even a leak in the basement — pushed back the start of services. 

Some remnants of construction remained: A small steamroller sat outside the front of the building, and a ladder lay against a rear patio wall. 

The large community room was closed so the floors could be re-done, and the library’s small road sign has been removed while the building committee reviews proposals for a new one.

“I’m just so happy it’s open,” said Director of Libraries Lynne Antunes. 

The building features an open plan with high cathedral ceilings, multiple quiet study rooms, a group study room, and a large community room with a built-in projector and sound system and a little kitchen on the side.

Modern facilities include a gender neutral bathroom as well as energy-efficient features like low-flush toilets and a station to refill water bottles at the drinking fountain.

“The design is spacious,” said Antunes. “It’s got natural light coming in. We want people to love their library building.”

“And we do have empty shelves, because this building is designed for 20 years of growth,” she added.

All of those who came inside were impressed with the space.

“It’s beautiful,” said Paula-Susan Frost. 

She was checking out two cookbooks. “I live right in the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s so exciting. It’s a beautiful building. My whole family’s very excited about it.”

“It’s really nice,” agreed former town collector Deb Piva, who lives near UMass Dartmouth. “Very very nice. Especially for my grandchildren, when they’re visiting.”

Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes also stopped by for a visit on opening day. “All the glass makes you feel like you’re in the woods,” he noted.

“It looks great,” he added. “I love it. I think it’s really nice.”

Award-winning architects Oudens Ello Architecture of Boston designed the space to be open and visible with lots of glass walls, said Antunes, so a small number of staff can keep an eye on almost every room from the front desk.

“This building was designed with sight lines in mind,” she said. “It’s important, especially if you don’t have a big staff. You can see all the way to the back.”

“I’m really glad that this is here,” said Hixville resident and Library Trustee Bill Chandler, a sentiment echoed among the other North Dartmouth residents in attendance. 

“We’re just really excited,” said Reed Road resident Julie Boucher, who was visiting with her four-year-old daughter Emmelia. “We live close by, and it’s just nice to have a library closer to home, and a place for the kids to come and read and have fun.”

Emmelia sat next to a large stuffed penguin in the children’s room. “I was talking about penguins at school,” she said. “They swim. But the little ones can’t, because they don’t have perfect feathers.”