Town officials working to save the old North Branch Library

Sep 9, 2019

Dartmouth’s little old library might be able to stay at its current home, with a little extra money to shore up its structure. 

The one-room building, which dates back to 1911, had been threatened with an uncertain future amid a state proposal to re-align Tucker Road through land it currently sits on. 

The state proposal would already require the demolition of the currently operational North Branch Library at 1383 Tucker Road. The one-room building sits behind it. 

A new library on Cross Road is currently under construction, but what would become of the historic former library was left uncertain in July. 

After considerable discussion about the building’s future, the Board of Library Trustees voted to not move the building to the site of the new North Dartmouth Library on Cross Road. 

At the time, it was uncertain if the state’s road rerouting proposal would leave any space to save the building. Newly released schematics of three proposed routes indicate there may be space to keep the building on Tucker Road.

“I don’t think anyone on this board wants to get rid of this building, by any means,” said Select Board Chair Stanley Mickelson at the board’s September 9 meeting. 

Mickelson said Department of Public Works Director David Hickox has been working on a plan to move the building slightly on the property so it is not in the way of the construction project. 

The building itself, however, is in no shape to be moved in its current condition -- even for a short distance on the same property. It has not been in use for years, and has fallen into disrepair. 

The town has hired an organization to evaluate the building, and Select Board members brainstormed funding ideas to shore the building up enough to be moved. 

Mickelson suggested exploring capital improvement funds or possibly tapping New Bedford Vocational Technical High School students to help out.

“I think it is our responsibility that we make sure we find a way,” Mickelson said. 

The Dartmouth Friends of the Elderly has also reached out to explore possibly helping save the building, although details about its proposal are still preliminary. 

As for other organizations, Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes said Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust and the Freetown Historical Society have both been contacted, and indicated they do not have an interest in the building. 

Board of Library Trustees member Suzanne McDonald noted that since the building was moved from its original location on State Road in 1992, a number of re-use proposals were made, but none of them panned out.

“We’re trying to find a purpose for it,” she said. 

Library Trustee member Wendy Garf-Lipp noted those proposals - like turning the building into a children’s reading room or a police museum - faced significant logistical issues. 

“There’s no electricity, no plumbing, no handicap access, no bathrooms,” Garf-Lipp said. “The concern is town money will go to using it as storage. Do we want to move the building so someone can keep a lawnmower in it, or find a way to put a ton of money into it?"