The Sawyer Free Library (SFL) is pleased to share that it has selected a temporary location for the Library during the upcoming renovation and expansion project. The construction project, which involves a renovation of the Library’s 1976 main building at 2 Dale Avenue and an addition of 15,000-square-feet, is expected to begin in early 2023 and take approximately eighteen months.
The Library’s Board of Trustees secured a multi-year lease for 21 Main Street in downtown Gloucester, the former space of Cape Ann Cinema and Stage. The SFL plans to move to its new temporary location this fall.
“When 21 Main Street was proposed as an option for the temporary Sawyer Free Library, we jumped at the opportunity,” said Mern Sibley, President of the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library’s Board of Trustees. “Located downtown, just a few blocks from our current location, it has the space and the requirements our dedicated library staff need in order to continue serving our community’s diverse cultural, educational, and informational needs and interests.”
“The commercial real estate market is very tight in Gloucester with few available properties,” continued Sibley. “We feel fortunate to have secured a space that meets our specifications with only minor modifications needed. This temporary space presented itself at the right time, and it is one that we believe will serve the community best during this exciting and historic time for the Sawyer Free Library.”
In its new temporary home, the Sawyer Free Library will offer select in-person services, curbside services, outreach programming, and an enhanced level of online services. The approximately 3,600 sq. ft. at 21 Main Street will accommodate library services for both children and adults, as well as the Library’s local history research resources and Wellspring House’s client intake center. The space will have public computers, Wi-Fi access and study tables. The size of the space limits the quantity of materials onsite. However, through the hold system, cardholders have access to thousands of titles and resources from storage in Saunders House and other NOBLE libraries.
The Library’s hours will remain the same, open six days a week, with the familiar faces of the Sawyer Free Library’s staff available to assist the public. The centrally located space on Main Street is handicap accessible and offers ample parking in the nearby city lot.
SFL will continue to offer a robust schedule of programs for residents of all ages throughout the community and is looking at off-site locations in Gloucester’s public schools, preschools, community centers, municipal spaces, local cultural institutions, parks, and other outdoor spaces. It will also work with its many community partners to host collaborative programming. In addition, the Library will continue to utilize and enhance its remote and online virtual programs.
“Community residents have come to expect a wide range of educational and informational services and programs from our library, and we intend on continuing to deliver on that promise,” said Library Director Jenny Benedict. “Our dedicated Sawyer Free Library staff is committed to making this temporary transition smooth for all. We are excited to share our expertise in new and creative ways. Our talented librarians, resources, and services that Gloucester looks to and relies on will continue to be there for them, whether it be in person in our temporary space, out in the community, or online. We are beyond excited for the 2025 Sawyer Free Library and all it will mean for our community.”
SFL will be working with a relocation service to facilitate the upcoming move of library collections, furnishings and equipment to the temporary location. The Saunders House will be used for library staff office space and onsite storage during the construction. The exact dates and the specifics of the move will be forthcoming.
“In order for the 2025 Sawyer Free Library project to move forward on schedule, it’s imperative that the current Library is available to the construction company as soon as the project and financial approvals are in place,” said Sibley. “There is also an urgency to relocate before the winter in order to move the public and our collections and equipment into a safe space where they are no longer at risk due to the deteriorating conditions of the current building.”
When doors open at the 2025 Sawyer Free Library, the building will exemplify what a 21st-century public library can and should be in terms of architecture, sustainability, accessibility, use of natural resources and light, wayfinding, lines of sight, air quality, and public safety. The modernized and expanded Library will double in size with the addition. It will boast new community spaces, including a 110-seat community room with state-of-the-art science presentation technology, a dedicated room for teens, and a digital maker space with a film production suite and a sound recording studio. Additional features will include a Library History Center, a quiet Reading Room, and a 16-seat Conference Room.
The Sawyer Free Library recently announced the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners approval of the funding for a $9 million provisional construction grant toward the estimated $28 million historic project. In October, the Gloucester City Council is expected to vote on the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library’s request for a city loan to provide the financing for the project and allow the City to access the state grant. Gloucester’s public library is owned by the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library, a nonprofit corporation, which will repay the loan through grants, corporate and individual donations.
The Sawyer Free 2025 fundraising campaign is underway, with several large corporate gifts committed, the campaign continues to gain traction and is attracting donations both big and small. Sawyer Free 2025 continues to seek funding through individual and corporate donors, federal, state, and municipal government grants, and nonprofit foundations. The public is encouraged to learn more about the project by visiting sawyerfree2025.org.