Things People Have Said to Me About the New Library That Turned Out to Be Untrue

  1. Henrietta will never build a new library. Someone said this to me seven years ago, on my third day on the job. At the time I hadn’t given the idea of a new library even a tiny thought as I was preoccupied with learning everyone’s name. We’ll open our new building in July.
  2. Henrietta will never bond for anything. We’ve bonded for a touch over $8 million.
  3. Voters will never pass a project that costs over $9 million. I also heard $5, $6, $7, and $8 million cited at the highest amounts voters would tolerate. 62% of voters approved our $12.5 million dollar project when we went out to referendum in November 2017.
  4. They will try to cut _________. Many people have said this to me, and the blank has been many things, including square feet, shelving, the children’s room, the book drop, air conditioning, and the elevator. The implication of “they” also changed depending on who was speaking. What actually happened is that the building team used data and input from the community to build a rational and sensible building plan focused on the library’s mission and the community’s goals. The library we’re building is the library we need.
  5. Everyone will try to take advantage of you. This is a wearying position to put yourself in. Everyone I’ve dealt with has been fair and open, and there is nothing wrong with honest negotiation processes and businesses trying to turn a profit. Making a profit is the point of building a business, and it should concern you if you are dealing with a businessperson who doesn’t care about the financial health of their company. From your end as someone purchasing goods and services, there are laws, regulations, policies, and best practices to follow to make sure everyone gets a fair deal.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. If you’re looking to do a big project of any type, people will get uncomfortable–even, maybe especially, if they support your idea–and they’ll say things to you out of that discomfort that may be based more on feelings than facts. Your job as a leader is to know and remember what is true. That’s a strength and skill that you can build, nurture, and support.

Maybe I’ll do another entry on coping mechanisms.

Transformations, Exterior

Let’s talk about how an empty field physically transforms into a library through some of the eighty kabillion photos I have taken through this process.

I wish I had thought to take a photo of the bare field, but the first photo I have is of the town’s DPW crew preparing the site for foundation work.

This is the first time I sat in my new office, over a year ago. It was drafty.

This is our library mascot, TR Henri, on the day of our ceremonial groundbreaking. It was 20 degrees on that day in March 2018, and I was deeply concerned someone would get hypothermia, but so many people came to help us celebrate and that day has settled into a happy blur of a memory in my mind.

I called this the Two Towers stage. What you’re seeing are the emergency stairwells and elevator tower.

I photographed this arch many times because I couldn’t get over how beautiful bare steel could be.

The architects and construction manager surprised me with this dinosaur-themed construction sign that was very on-brand for HPL and sparked such excitement in the community about the new library on the way when it was placed. I remain delighted by it.

Another shot of that graceful steel and also the geothermal wells for our HVAC being drilled. That drilling was intense–very loud–and I mostly avoided the site for the couple weeks it was happening.

Weather barriers are a thing.

Technically an interior shot, but this was some of our staff visiting the library after the second floor was poured. It was magical to be able to step onto the second floor of something that had recently been see-through. Notice the colors in the leaves? The seasons are changing.

And now it begins to look like a building, and my construction site wear is on point.

Here we have windows, sunshine, and more tidied-up exterior finishes.

This is a photo I took last week. The date stone, the HPL sign, and the main entrance being built are recent highlights on the site.

It’s been a touch over a year from the first foundation blocks to today. I see it all the time, but I’m still astonished by it.

“The Shadows Will Be Behind You If You Walk Into the Light”

The walls of our new library are intricate. I know this because I read the contracts and looked at the drawings and week by week by week over the last year have watched the steel, the insulation, the water barrier, the concrete blocks, the bricks, and the web of cables, wires, and ducts come together to be capped by drywall and paint. Each square foot of our library involved the work and thought of more people than I can count or name. And they’re still working, adding cabinets, shelves, wallpaper, tile–defining spaces, creating functionality and beauty.

All buildings come together this way, but until now I’ve spent my life existing in them with so little awareness. When I look around our new library as it approaches the end of construction, I see people in the things. Tim’s the sidewalk in front of the entrance; Jen’s the logo out front; Erin’s the display case; Sharon’s the fireplace. I see the day I walked in and the tiler excitedly showed me the floor tile that had just arrived. I see the day the construction manager gave me a brick I lugged back to my office and displayed like a trophy. The people, the moments, are everywhere I look.

The architect of our library loves light. I don’t know if Pete has always loved libraries, but I can see he loves them now. I see Pete in the windows and skylights and LED fixtures that say we see you, you are welcome, square your shoulders, look up.

This is what I love about libraries. Every book on our shelves contains multitudes–writers, editors, publishers, printers, readers. These people bring their hearts and minds together to create something more powerful than any of them could accomplish on their own, something with the power to make a life better. And a life that becomes better makes another life better. And another. And another. No one can say where that ends.

In a few months, we’ll be opening our beautiful new space. The public will arrive, and our library will live and breathe and evolve along with the rest of us, the way all libraries are meant to, and we’ll add more stories to those walls.