Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


July 4, 2013

Memorial Hall Library extends its reach outdoors with new patio

Memorial Hall Library extends reach with new patio

It’s amazing what a little imagination — and about $70,000 — can accomplish.

With $60,000 in capital improvement money from Town Meeting, and another $10,000 collected through fund-raising, the rear entrance of Memorial Hall Library has been transformed from a sort of cruddy-looking, muddy hillside into an inviting, comfortable outdoor patio that has become a haven for local residents.

Charles Melville, 39, of Andover, recently took advantage of the outdoor seating area — and the library’s Wi-Fi network — to do a little job-searching on his computer.

“This is a big improvement,” said Melville, who has lived in town about three years. “I have a little office at home I use, but if I want to get out of the house, I come to the library. Having this space outside is great.”

He’s not the only one who’s happy about the changes.

“I haven’t done anything at the library that has gotten as much excitement and universal approval as that patio,” said Beth Mazin, library director for about 25 years. “It was an eyesore before. We got an awesome addition to the library without a big expense.”

The patio came about almost accidentally. Mazin said the masonry around the steps and handicapped-accessible ramp leading to the library’s rear entrance was in disrepair. Several years ago, Town Meeting approved spending $60,000 on improvements.

“It was disintegrating and dangerous,” Mazin said.

One day, while the engineer/architect was out measuring the site before work began, Mazin asked what, if anything, could be done about the “hideous, sloped ground” that separated the ramp from the sidewalk. The engineer, Andrew Barr out of Burlington, suggested building a retaining wall.

The wall could hold the slope back, he told her, while at the same time create a flat area that could become a more useful space.

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