Library thinks outside the stacks

  • Don Rankin, a volunteer at the Wilton Gregg & Public Free Library, by a story board he built that is part of the library’s new story trail, a feature of its new Smart Park. Courtesy photo

  • The Wilton Gregg & Public Free Library will be opening a new Smart Park on its grounds next week. —Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, May 14, 2018 12:32PM

The Wilton Public & Gregg Free Library is extending its learning environment outside the building, creating an outdoor space for interactive installations for music, art, and storytelling.

“It’s really intended to be multi-use,” said Alison Meltzer, a member of the Library Trustees and President of the Wilton Main Street Association. “We intend it as an outdoor classroom, a place where people can play with music or with interactive sculpture, as well as doing a lot of events out there.”

Last year, the library received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to allow it to become one of fifteen libraries nationwide to participate in the “Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces” initiative, a movement sponsored by the OCLC, a global library cooperative.

The idea is to have the library work with the community to determine a use for the “smart space” that provides opportunities for informal learning and social interaction.

Last year, the Wilton Library and Director Pat Fickett conducted a survey of its patrons, and held conversations with community groups such as the Wilton Community Center, the Wilton Main Street Association and the Economic Development Committee, and attended a wide-scope planning process hosted by the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension, where both town officials and the public spoke about the needs of the community.

The project is complementary to other endeavors going on in town, said Meltzer, such as the River Walk or the renovated green space behind the police station.

“Clearly, that space is visible from the library, and vice-versa,” said Meltzer. “It’s all part of an effort to make use of the town’s outdoor spaces.”

Taking the feedback from those groups, the library has settled on what its smart space will look like – an outdoor creative space for families, artists, musicians and speakers to gather.

The space will have access to wi-fi all day, and interactive installations of art, music and storytelling.

Tables and benches will be added to make the space comfortable for programs, classes and informal use. Outdoor musical instruments, including drums and a keyboard, will create a musical play space. A raised garden bed, built by Wilton Boy Scout Jacob Manning, provides the opportunity for gardening activities with children.

Library volunteer Don Rankin, who spent this past winter building the storyboards, installed a new “story trail” on May 8 with a group of volunteers. Located at the library entrance from Forest Road, the storyboards start at the sidewalk and around the walkway at the front of the building. A children’s book can be read page-by-page at each storyboard, which encourages families to walk the trail together, reading as they go.

On Saturday, the town will be holding a downtown stroll to highlight some of those new spaces, and the library will be holding a grand opening of the “smart park” at noon.

The initial elements of the project included landscaping, a stairway for access, lighting and electrical outlets, security cameras, and irrigation.

When the library did major site work on the grounds as part of improvement to the drainage, the library arranged to flatten the area between the library and the Masonic lodge, in anticipation of building the space, said Meltzer. While the space is now substantially complete, the library hopes in the future to make it more accessible to people with mobility issues, and to put in additional interactive sculpture.

Additional funding for the space has been provided through the donations of many Wilton residents, including Sam Trombly Landscaping, which donated labor and materials for some parts of the project, and will donate the park’s lawn care for the coming year.

The library will hold a grand opening of the Smart Park on Saturday at noon. The Rakes of Milford will provide music. Pizza, cake and ice cream will be served, followed by a presentation on New England Stone Walls presented by Kevin Gardner of the New Hampshire Humanities Council. The Friends of the Wilton library are co-sponsoring this presentation with NHHC.

Festivities will take place immediately following the Wilton Spring Stroll. 


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.