The Gladys E. Kelly Library, Webster
Now this is something amazingly unexpected and unprecedented in the annals of Library Land! Since we started looking at libraries, we’ve been reluctant to hand out a perfect score because there’s always room for improvement. But what can we say? The Gladys E. Kelly Public Library in Webster has everything we look for in a library - and then some. Plenty of free parking? Check. Fast and easy wifi? Check. Comfortable study rooms? You bet! The score card says it all - and yet there’s so much more to say.
The exterior is glass and dark wood and slate and brushed metal, rising up from grassy area, and older town buildings and a gazebo. It’s stylishly modern, but the materials make it feel almost classical in a way, especially the tall, dark and handsome wooden columns. Once inside, you find yourself in a big, bright open space with tons of natural light pouring in from above. Before you is the circulation desk, which has some amazing bevels.
One of the things that really works in Webster is the way all the pieces fit together. I mentioned the bevels on the front desk, which look like the edges of the pages of an open book. The furniture across the board is stylish and comfortable. When I mentioned these things to the director, she said that the architectural firm - Oudens Ello - did the furniture sections and interiors. The firm also did the Millis Library, another fave. Really outstanding work.
On the main floor is a community room, the adult section, lots of work spaces and plenty of public computers. In one corner of the main floor, large, modern, die-cut blue tapestries hang from floor to ceiling. In that corner, too, are large wooden tables - with power and USB plugs right on the surface.
On the second floor are closed-off teen and children’s sections, a periodicals room that has four super nice study rooms at the end. These rooms can be booked for two hours and can be extended if no one is waiting for them. Oh, and the study rooms? They have a muted quiet (that, unfortunately, can be intruded on by sounds from outside the room) and white boards with pens. There’s also a larger flex-room that can be used for meetings and a local history room. To the side of the history room is an interesting interactive touchscreen display on the town’s history.
The whole space is inviting, inspiring, and soothing. There are work spaces aplenty, seating areas with comfortable chairs and coffee tables (that would look great in a designer apartment), and clusters of cafe tables for chatting with friends. During our visit, we saw most of the spaces in the library being used in one way or another. It was nice to see.
Another thing that makes the Webster Library so stunning is the fact that this isn’t a big city or super affluent suburb. It’s an old mill town that managed to secure solid funding from the state, raised additional funds through active Friends’ effort and won the support of voters. The result of these efforts is a truly amazing library - the nicest new construction that we’ve seen here in Massachusetts. The staff is rightly proud on their library and while it may be a bit off the beaten path for some, it’s well worth the effort to visit if you love libraries.