On a very hot and sunny Friday morning, May 25, 2007, in the back garden at the Rogers Free Library the Library and the Town of Bristol broke ground for a substantial addition that will expand the library from its current 6,100 square feet to a modern building of nearly 29,000 square feet. Capitol Project Committee Chairman David Swanson acted as Master of Ceremonies for a brief program featuring remarks by Town Administrator Diane Mederos, Town Council Chairman Kenneth Marshall and Rhode Island Chief Library Officer Howard Boksenbaum.
All acknowledged the massive effort of Library Director Joan Prescott, Board Chair Elizabeth Brito, and OLIS Construction Consultant Karen Mellor in bringing the project to the groundbreaking stage. Architects Dana Newbrook and W. Anthony Platt of AI Designs, Ltd., Lombard Pozzi, Historic Architect-consultant, Robert Allen, Owner’s Representative and Armand Lusi of Lusi Construction were also acknowledged along with The Champlin Foundations.
The morning’s speakers noted the importance of the library as an anchor for the Town’s economic development as well as a crucial element of Bristol’s educational and cultural life. Local dignitaries took up their shovels and ritually began the building effort. A reception followed at the Linden Place Ballroom.
The Rogers Free Library was founded in 1877, and has occupied the same building since Maria DeWolf Rogers gave a generous gift to the town in memory of her husband. The library began planning for its expansion in 1991, but these plans were interrupted when Rhode Island's Public Library Construction Reimbursement Program was suspended during the state's economic crisis. The construction reimbursement program was reinstituted in 1998, paving the way for a renewed effort to expand the library. The project really gained momentum in November 2000 when voters in Bristol overwhelmingly approved a $2,000,000 bond to pay for renovation and expansion of the library.
The project has faced many challenges over the past seven years, including an earlier rendition in 2005 where bids exceeded the project budget by $800,000. Fortunately, the Board of Trustees, the Capitol Project Committee, the Town Council and town administration persevered in their vision to expand library services to the people of Bristol. New plans were put out to bid in February 2007, which resulted in the award of the contract to Lusi Construction of No. Smithfield.
Construction will start immediately and is expected to last 15 months. During the construction period, the library will move operations from the library to a former video store in a shopping complex on Gooding Avenue, about a mile north of the downtown area. The move is expected to be completed by early July, and will allow contractors to work on the renovation and expansion simultaneously. While the library had originally planned on staying in the building during construction, moving the operation will allow the contractor to complete the project on an accelerated schedule.
Read Chief Library Officer Howard Boksenbaum's remarks.
For more information about the Rogers Free Library construction project, visit OLIS' Construction Projects page.