By Kirsten Williams, Forum Contributor
The Royalton Memorial Library re-opened to the public on Saturday, February 15. The celebration marked the completion of a 20-year effort to renovate and update the historic building. The library first formally opened its doors nearly 100 years ago in 1923. The core of South Royalton village, including the library building, was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
As with many large enterprises, the library needed to overcome the hurdle of funding. Library staff and the Board of Trustees worked hard to secure money for the renovation. They conducted extensive fundraising campaigns and wrote numerous grants.
“It’s been nearly two decades of people trying to get this space accessible to more of our patrons,” said Pheobe Roda, President of the Royalton Memorial Library Board of Trustees. “We’ve had the space available, but it was inaccessible, and we couldn’t use it,” she said. Roda noted that the past five years have been the most concerted efforts for grant writing and fundraising.
The next major step was securing the funding the Library was unable to get on its own. In 2017, Royalton voters approved a $750,000 bond for the project, with almost two-thirds of the final expense offset by refundable grants and donations. Roda said, “In developing a plan, we gathered a few, specific volunteers to work closely with the architect to make logistical changes to help keep our cost down . . . we did have to make a few structural changes that would have given us more floor space and storage space, but with the help of our community, we were able to stay within our budget. It was truly a community effort from the get-go.”
Construction officially began on April 29, 2019, when Upland Construction broke ground. The new Royalton Memorial Library is a beautifully redesigned and enhanced space. A two-story, approximately 1,500-square-foot addition houses a new Children’s Room, a Maker Space, historical reading room, a public meeting room, kitchenette, and staff office. To make the library more accessible, there is now a ground-floor entrance, two ADA compliant restrooms, and an elevator to the second floor.
The new design created a seamless transition from historical to modern. “Some of the big grant portions we got were tied to maintaining the historic portion of the building, so that was a huge factor in our planning goals . . . this is the only building [in South Royalton] still being used for its original purpose,” Roda said.
The old exposed brick (the original building’s exterior wall) complements the smooth, creamy walls of the remodeled space. Several of the bookcases in the main room are original. A central fireplace is flanked by a pair of well-loved, leather wingback chairs. Old and new have melded together even in the lighting fixtures; of utmost importance in a library. The most elegant example is the lighted wall display of donor plaques in the stairwell.
The ceremony itself was a true testament to the power of a supportive community within the town of Royalton and the state of Vermont. Despite the single-digit temperatures outside, an outpouring of local support filled the rooms inside. Old friends shared fond memories, children swiped homemade doughnuts from the potluck, and people mingled with their neighbors.
From outside Royalton, Guest Speaker Jason Broughton, Vermont state librarian, joined the staff and Board in celebrating the library’s new beginnings. Congratulatory letters of support from Vermont Senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, were also on display for visitors to read.
“We’re really hopeful that with this addition, we can serve this community for another 100 years,” commented Roda. “I really think it has the capacity to continue growing.”
Library cards are available during normal business hour: Tuesday, Friday, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Visit royaltonlibrary.org for more information.
Highlighted Spring Events:
Every third Saturday, 10-11 a.m.
All ages welcome.
Movie Night: Oscars Nominees an
Thursdays, 6-8 p.m.
Dungeons and Dragons
For adults and teens.