Eastham Public Library
We’ve wanted to visit the Eastham Public Library for a while. The thing is it’s pretty far out on Cape Cod and the last time we tried to visit was a Monday and - sad trombone - the Eastham Library is closed on Mondays. Thankfully, this time we visited on a Tuesday and the library was open for business!
We came down to have some photos taken for a story in the Cape Cod Times (we’ll let you know as soon as it runs!) and to visit a few more outer Cape libraries. We also wanted to see if the Oudens Ello awesome architectural streak would continue. The short answer: oh yeah!
When you visit, you’ll see that the library features weathered clapboard siding in a tip of the hat to so much of the Cape’s architecture. The interior is an amazing space with bold angles, tons of glass and the bright natural light we’ve come to expect from this team of architects. The shapes of the space hearken back to mid-century design, with clean lines and lots of hidden nooks. It makes it a pleasure to walk through and explore.
The ground floor contains most of the library’s collection and programming space. To the left of the entrance is a large community, an art gallery (more on this later), a bookstore, restrooms, etc. To the right is the circulation desk and beyond are the stacks. There are three discrete seating areas, each with comfortable furniture selected by the library staff. One of the areas features a lovely fireplace and all of them look out over Depot Pond.
The pond offers more than a fine view. It also serves as the motif for the children’s section on the lower level. There the carpets are grass green, the walls are sky blue and it makes the room feel almost as though the outdoors are inside. It’s pretty amazing. Also on this lower level is the Eastham Room, which houses the library’s historical collection, and the place we were given for a SharpOrange client conference call. Beyond their work with light, Oudens Ello also excels in acoustic design and this room is no exception: it not only is quiet but it feels quiet.
So, there you have the physical space, totally lovely. We were also able to spend quality time with several staffers (two of whom joined us for the photos with the Cape Cod Times), and they painted a picture of a library that’s really in tune with the needs of its community. For example, back in March, the town was walloped by some severe weather. A lot of residents found themselves without power and - even worse - without connectivity. The library had both and opened its doors to provide warmth, power, WiFi, and a sense of community.
What’s interesting about this experience is how it cemented the library’s place in the heart of the town. When it was time to build this library, the town was behind it, but there were some who were ambivalent to see the original library replaced. When those March storms came and the library opened its doors, everyone came to realize that this place really served as a center for the community. This is something that’s true of many libraries, but it’s often overlooked.
One of the things that we were really impressed by Eastham is the library’s relationship to the artistic community. Lots of libraries have gallery space, but here the space is spoken for well into 2020 - and artists who display and sell their works get 100 percent of the sale price. That’s a pretty generous split!
As it the case for many towns on the Cape, Eastham sees its population ebb and flow over the course of the year. Like other libraries in the area, Eastham manages this - not by changing staff numbers - but by prioritizing activities. The winter months are a time to catch up on projects, while the summer is all about circulation and keeping the computers running for all the people like us who want to work in the library during their summer vacations!
Finally, a word about the staff and the great team of volunteers we met during our visit. They were so friendly and so happy to talk about their library, the sense of community they foster, the programs they offer and run, the works. While we were at the library it was a happy hive of activity with parents and kids, co-workers, quiet readers, and people chit-chatting away. If you are planning a trip to Cape Cod, make a point to visit this fine library, you’ll be glad you did.