The $6.5 million expansion and renovation of the East Hampton Library, which will add 6,800 square feet for a new children’s room and the Baldwin Family Lecture Room, is virtually complete and will be unveiled at a June 21 grand opening that will include a ribbon cutting ceremony, a musical performance by the East Hampton Middle School Bonnettes, tours, refreshments, and entertainment for children.
The actor Alec Baldwin, who has donated substantial sums to the library, will present prizes to elementary and middle school students that submitted entries in the library’s writing and drawing contest. The June 21 program, capping a years-long effort to raise money and complete the expansion and renovation, will also commemorate the opening with the placement of various items into a time capsule.
“It’s been a long haul,” said Tom Twomey, chairman of the library’s board. “We’re very excited about the opening.”
At approximately 4,000 square feet, the children’s section is large and bright, including areas dedicated to age groups from birth through eighth grade. It allows for 10,000 more children’s books, new computers, and other technology. Each area will have its own collection, computers, and furniture.
The Baldwin Family Lecture Room, on the lower level of the addition, will be used for film screenings, poetry readings, historical lectures, children’s programs, and author and book events, and will house a state-of-the-art audio-visual system. In a partnership with the New York Public Library, the new system, which includes a 7-by-12-foot screen, will allow streaming of that library’s programs, as well as content from other institutions worldwide, directly into the room. Mr. Baldwin’s $1 million gift, bestowed in November, “made all the difference in the world as far as being able to outfit and install very sophisticated equipment,” Mr. Twomey said. Mr. Baldwin, who is the honorary chairman of the library’s annual Authors Night fund-raiser, also donated $250,000 to local libraries in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The library’s existing spaces and infrastructure have undergone a thorough refurbishing including painting, upgrades to the furnaces, and new carpeting, shelving, air-conditioning and heating, fire sprinklers, alarms, and landscaping including a children’s “secret garden.” For the latter component, Mr. Twomey said that Marders Garden Center and Nursery of Bridgehampton had been “stunningly generous.” Without Marders, he said, “We couldn’t have finished this job right.”
The Hedges Room has been renovated and will now house media including DVDs and CDs. The Ed and Frances Barlow Media Room, where digital media was previously situated, will be an adult reading room that Mr. Twomey said would feature an elegant, living room-type atmosphere with seating. It has been renamed the Ed and Frances Barlow Reading Room. Theproject also included the addition of 16 parking spaces and a dedicated space for the library’s sale of donated books on amazon.com. A second elevator allows for the entire building to be accessible to the handicapped.
The latest project represents the second of a two-phase initiative, following a $3.5 million expansion and renovation, completed in 1997, in which the brick courtyard and the side of the building housing the adult fiction collection, the Horticulture Room, the director’s office, and the rear entrance were added, said Dennis Fabiszak, the library’s director. The $10 million represented by the two phases was raised privately from local residents, and “not a penny from taxpayer money,” Mr. Twomey said. “East Hampton always had a tradition, going back to 1912, of raising that from generous individuals in the community.” As of last week, the library’s principals were still seeking to raise $250,000 to complete the project’s financing.
Mr. Twomey and Mr. Fabiszak also credited Ben Krupinski, the project’s construction manager, as well as Robert A.M. Stern, the architect, and Lee Skolnick, who designed the interior of the children’s addition.
Mr. Twomey praised Mr. Fabiszak for keeping the core of the project within its budget. Mr. Fabiszak, he said, “practically served as assistant construction manager. Dennis put in six days a week, 10 hours a day.”
As the project nears completion, the library is also participating in the East Hampton Town Older Adult Survey, making available a questionnaire that will be used to compile data on services, programs, and activities for older adults. The survey can also be completed online at easthamptonsurvey.com.
A preliminary assessment of the surveys received reveals that a sizable segment of the town’s senior citizen population lives alone, said Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez of the East Hampton Town board, and that many do not drive at night. The library, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said, is among the essential services the town should deliver to senior citizens, and the survey has spurred discussion of town-provided transportation to it.
Mr. Fabiszak, who is representing local libraries in the effort, “has been tremendous,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said. “We’ve opened up communication that hadn’t been there before. It’s going to help us with programs and services.”