A look inside Peterborough Town Library construction

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos shows off the progress of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos and John Lawlor of Harvey Construction give a tour of the under-construction Peterborough Town Library. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Carl Von Mertens has volunteered the labor in the construction of several tables for the renovated Peterborough Town Library. Thursday, Feb. 2. 2021 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Carl Von Mertens has volunteered the labor in the construction of several tables for the renovated Peterborough Town Library. Thursday, Feb. 2. 2021 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/17/2021 4:55:52 PM

Construction on the renovated Peterborough Town Library is almost ready to shift indoors. That’s an exciting milestone, Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos said, and it signals the time for the library’s furniture committee to shine.

The immensity of their task may not be immediately obvious. “It’s important that the furniture is super durable and of a quality that will last in a public facility,” Chronopoulos said of the new library’s furnishings, but it’s also important that the furniture be comfortable for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and maintains some kind of a common theme through spaces meant for a diversity of activities.

Where do you even start, when the library is supposed to support quiet study, a teen space, children’s programming, community classes, formal and casual meetings, music and art events in a room that can accommodate up to 120 people, and even small weddings?

“That is a rather large task,” furniture committee chair Peggy Van Valkenburgh said, and the most important step, to her, was forming the right committee for the job.

“I chose people who I thought had a great eye for design, and people that I knew would be awesome to work with,” she said, and brought on Denise Zimmer, Jeannie Connolly, and Amy Riley, all of whom Van Valkenburgh trusted to follow through on the job. They may not be professional interior designers, but the group’s serious commitment to making agreeable, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing choices and willingness to collaborate was important, Van Valkenburgh said, and they’ve received lots of help and expertise from the project’s furniture contractor besides.

The group was able to visit a couple recently renovated libraries in the area before COVID-19 complicated matters, Van Valkenburgh said, and made their template from the architects’ digital fly-through, which depicted some furniture concepts, as they listed how they wanted each space to feel, and what pieces they’d need for every room.

The teen area should be cozy as well as functional, Van Valkenburgh said, so teens can work together on projects. The young children’s section would have brightly colored carpeting, space for group read-alouds and play time, and appropriately sized seating for adult family members.

The quiet reading room is the most exciting component of the plan to Van Valkenburgh herself, she said: a room that invites people to spread out and stay awhile, with chairs in front of the fireplace, and a layout that calls back to the room’s historical roots. “I can imagine sitting in this room and getting lost in a great book,” she said, or having an enjoyable time while delving into research.

Van Valkenburgh asked Peterborough local Carl Von Mertens to construct several tables for the library after seeing some of his handiwork on the Dublin School campus, where retired teacher Von Mertens now regularly volunteers to build whatever piece is needed for a classroom. “His tables are just absolutely incredible,” she said. Von Mertens was only too happy to oblige. “It’s something I love to do,” he said, donating his labor while the library paid for the cherry wood he’d use.

Von Mertens had a small end table ready for finishing and had started in on pieces of three by seven-foot worktables at his son’s workshop on Vose Farm Road on Thursday. His to-do list for the library also included a large boardroom table, he said. All the pieces would be durable, heavier designs that would stand up to a lot of use.

The projects requirements meant the group needed to procure many different models rather than a bunch of the same design, Van Valkenburgh said – while looking like it all belongs in the same building. And nothing too trendy, she said, since the furniture is meant to last a while. A truckload of the committee’s furniture selections is expected to come to town this week for field testing, she said, one of the last steps before the group makes their purchases.

The library is still on schedule to open in the renovated building in August, Chronopoulos said. Once the windows go in, construction crews will install temporary heating sources and begin several months of interior work. The library’s capital campaign has less than $40,000 to raise after coming up with $5.5 million so far in donations from private donors and foundations, she said, and there have been few surprises during the construction process. “We’ve been lucky. Everything has been going very, very well,” she said.

The pandemic proved to have more of an impact on library usership than their move to a temporary location on Jaffrey Road, Chronopoulos said. The library saw 236 new library cards go into circulation, as compared to 584 in 2019. That’s still pretty good, she said, considering the library was closed for a month to move to a new space, as well as the pandemic shutdown disruptions of service. The circulation of physical items, like print books, was cut in half in 2020, she said, but digital circulation doubled. “Folks needed content: more people were streaming, reading, and listening,” she said. Technology and early literacy classes also remained popular, with 542 and 775 attendees throughout the year, respectively, she said.

Library staff stepped up to confidentially answer more than 200 vital questions from patrons about medical issues, taxes, finance, legal, and career issues. The uptick was likely because patrons couldn’t browse the physical collection on their own for much of the year, Chronopoulos said, and benefited instead from the library staff’s intimate knowledge of their collection. “We had one parent looking for books about how to talk to their child about living with a disease and were able to offer a ton of books on resilience that they may not have found on their own. They were thrilled to have our support,” she said.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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