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Charting a New Course

Being literate today is about being able to navigate, evaluate and communicate in the modern world.

The 21st century learning environment requires a public library that has the space and technology resources to deliver on these needs. Together, digital access, self-directed learning, exploration and community engagement will be an anchoring function of the Sawyer Free Library 2025 renovation and expansion.

Sawyer Free 2025 will fully renovate the 1976 wing and double the library’s size with a 15,000 square-foot addition. New features will include build-outs like a digital makerspace, a dedicated teen room, a film production and editing suite, an audio recording studio and a 110-seat community room with state-of-the-science tech. Additional features will include a Gloucester history center and a quiet reading room along with fully ADA/OSHA and state/local building-code compliance.

Our plan is about respecting our history and modernizing our building with technological advancements that deliver new methods of learning and new ways of sharing ideas and information. It constitutes a once-in-a-lifetime, transformational investment in a vital community resource that will exponentially amplify the library’s ability to deliver critical services and outcomes not only for Gloucester, but to communities across Cape Ann as an epicenter of connection, creation, compassion, renewal and advancement.

The project will constitute an exemplar of what a 21st century community space can and should be in terms of architecture, sustainability, use of natural resources and light, wayfinding, layouts, lines of sight, air quality and public safety. Sawyer Free Library already has a broader reach than any other single organization in our community. The library annually hosts scores of community lectures, forums, cultural events, exhibitions and presentations. It circulated more than 150,000 items in FY ’21 including almost 25,000 ebooks, downloadable audiobooks and music. With a modernized facility, the library would be capable of lending much more.

The 2025 library facilities will serve a broader, more diverse segment of our community. It will drive a 25-percent increase in annual visitors (both virtual and in person), a 25-percent increase in the number of public programs offered each month and a 50-percent increase in the number of programs hosted at the library by partner agencies.

Being Green
Top Internal Features
Design Sensibility
21st Century Tech Assets
Transformed Partnerships
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) has awarded a provisional construction grant of $9.3 million to the Sawyer Free Library 2025 project, but only if sufficient community support is demonstrated first.

Gloucester is a very self-sufficient place. We all take pride in solving community problems on our own and being resourceful and getting a lot out of limited resources. We’ve been living with this library for a long time. With creativity, ingenuity and sweat equity, we’ve tapped into every dimension of its serviceability. But we deserve the same kind of resources that many communities enjoy from their public library.

Beneath the extraordinary and wide-ranging services, programming and community benefits that the current library delivers, there is a decaying underbelly of physical flaws, faults, fractures and defects.

Today, Sawyer Free Library is plagued by severe limitations of space, navigability and mobility-device access. It is supported by aging, inefficient and obsolete facilities and systems that can’t be integrated or upgraded, resulting in a large carbon footprint. The floor plan presents glaring public-safety concerns, including poor sightlines on the children’s floor and outside adult bathrooms, in addition to stairwells that are concealed behind closed doors.

The library’s fire detection/suppression systems have reached their end-of-life phase. Ventilation and filtration systems are inferior. There are no bathrooms on the first or second floor and none of the building’s restrooms are fully ADA compliant. The front entrance, stack widths and elevator are not ADA compliant. Staff areas do not meet OSHA spacing standards. Collections, including historical archives, are not properly temperature and humidity controlled.

In terms of the user experience, visitors are met with narrow and poorly lit wayfinding. The overall layout is confusing and disjointed. Everything about how the library is run and how its staff engages the community is exceptionally inviting, but the interior itself does not signal a welcoming and vibrant space.

The library offers no collaborative digital learning space, no quiet study or reading room, an undersized children’s room with no distinct areas for toddlers or preschoolers and no dedicated teen room. The entire interior of the building is beset with disruptive, unmodulated acoustics and audio reverberation.

A modern public library’s assets must align to inspire learning, drive development, grow social capital, cultivate leadership and create opportunities. This new space will exponentially expand opportunities for the library to connect and collaborate with its more than 100 partner service providers in and around our community, and it will amplify this alliance’s collective impact on the city of Gloucester, Cape Ann and across the North Shore.

Making Sawyer Free 2025 a reality would send a powerful message about our community’s priorities, proudly declaring: We care deeply about our past, present and future, and we embrace our obligation to teach ensuing generations about the place they’re going to grow up in, and live in and inherit. What characteristics do you envision for those future generations of Gloucester folk that come after you? What do you want them to know about this community? What do you hope they believe in and what are the values you want them to hold dear? 

Gloucester is a beautiful place to live, a healthy and safe place to dwell and a terrific place to raise a family. We have a lot of pride as a community, and we should have a library of which we are equally proud.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) has awarded a provisional construction grant of $9.3 million to the Sawyer Free Library 2025 project, but only if sufficient community support is demonstrated first. In other words, the MBLC’s offer is time-limited, and the Sawyer Free 2025 capital campaign must hit a certain fundraising level to formally trigger the grant and turn the MBLC’s pledged donation into money in the bank. Due to pandemic-related delays, our campaign must now raise at least another $10 million by mid-fall to meet the MBLCs sufficient community support standard. Don’t wait! Your support today will help fund Gloucester’s future.