Creating One Home, Breaking Ground On Another

Posted on 02 October 2008

Hampton Library Director Susan LaVista is making the best of the library’s situation in its temporary home at the former Marders Nursery headquarters on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. But for LaVista and her staff, the key to the next year-and-a-half is ensuring their patrons don’t have to make the best of it, but rather have all the resources normally at their fingertips on hand one way or another.

LaVista and her staff locked the doors of the 130-year-old library this August, and it is LaVista’s hope they will open the doors to their 4300 square foot, energy efficient library in the spring or summer of 2010. The library officially opened the doors at its new, yet temporary home, in early September, after reaching a two-year lease agreement with the Town of Southampton and just last week celebrated a ground breaking ceremony for the renovation and expansion of its historic Main Street, Bridgehampton home.

While the move into the old Marders building, a barn painstakingly converted into appropriate library space, noted LaVista, was taxing on the library staff, so far the response from patrons has been overwhelmingly positive – many pleased with the warm feel of the converted, once long-abandoned, space. 

 “They find it to be cozy and charming,” said LaVista on Tuesday. “And we are giving them most of what we were able to provide before, although some of our collection is in storage.”

According to LaVista roughly a third of the library’s complete collection is available in its new library, although audio-visual materials, new books and periodicals can be found in their entirety. However, she said, this does not mean Hampton Library patrons should want for any resource in the age of inter-library loan and with the support of surrounding communities.

“We are really, really lucky in Suffolk County,” said LaVista. “We are members of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System and I think honestly it is one of the best cooperative systems in the state, if not the country.”

As a part of the system, LaVista noted virtually any reasonable request for a book or resource can usually be fulfilled in days, if not the very next day, and with the support of other community libraries in the area, patrons of the Hampton Library may also peruse neighboring facilities in search of what they desire.

“We are very lucky the Rogers Memorial Library [in Southampton] and the John Jermain Memorial Library [in Sag Harbor] opened up their circulation rules while we are closed,” said LaVista, noting the Hampton Library would be happy to return the favor should either institution need their assistance.

“So, if we had to inconvenience our patrons by closing and moving to a new location, we have done everything we can to make sure they have what they need and are not without their library resources,” said LaVista.

The two-story Marders building is roughly 2200 square feet, almost half the size of the expanded building the library will find itself in come 2010. According to LaVista, virtually the entire interior of the structure had to be redone in order to ready the space for the library’s new home. With the work finished and library open, patrons have access to both the first and second story of the building, split into smaller areas for reading, reference, programming, computers and for the children’s section.

LaVista said in the last couple of weeks, local schools have started to find their way back to the Hampton Library, with the Sagaponack school resuming their weekly visits, Bridgehampton School students stopping by and a visit planned soon by the Ross School. As for programming, LaVista said the library plans to continue business as usual, although some classes and groups will be smaller than what the library is normally able to accommodate, simply due to lack of space.

“We will continue with our several different book discussion groups,” said LaVista. “We have philosophy, we have French language, we have our movie club, and a few organizations that regularly use our meeting rooms, and we haven’t even gotten into our full schedule of regular programming, which will resume in October. We’ll keep everything going, it will just have to be a little smaller.”

But despite being smaller, the Hampton Library’s patrons seem to keep coming back.

“They are walking here, they are driving, they are riding their bikes, they are bringing in their baby strollers,” said LaVista. “They are finding us.”

 Photo: Hampton Library Director Susan LaVista (in red, center) is joined by library trustees and Southampton Town officials at a groundbreaking ceremony on September 23. 






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