West Falmouth Library reading room

In the restored reading room, which is open to the community room, book stacks are now on casters, allowing the library to accommodate more people for their speaker and music events.

West Falmouth Library strengthens its ties to community, and history, as it begins its next chapter

When five Quaker women formed the Young People’s Union—which would become the West Falmouth Library Association—in the mid-1870s, could they have known just how enduring an institution they created? As these women amassed numerous books and partook in various literary programs together, they in turn created a shared sense of community, one that has remained the heartbeat of the West Falmouth Library.

“It’s really the center of the community, and people feel that they belong here and it belongs to the community,” says Lois Hiller, director of West Falmouth Library. It was with community in mind that, in 2012, the library decided to make some much-needed updates to its 1896 building on West Falmouth Highway. Over the next five years, working with Brown Lindquist Fenuccio & Raber Architects (BLFR) and contractor Dellbrook | JKS, the West Falmouth Library’s Building Committee set out to create a fully accessible, modern-day facility, all while restoring the historic integrity of the library.

Prior to the project, there was no easy way for individuals with physical limitations to access the building. The main entrance consists of stairs, so to enter the building otherwise and access the main and lower levels meant using a handicap lift. “But it was pretty intimidating to use,” says Oliver Egleston, co-chair of the Building Committee. Additionally, a small children’s room on the lower level was only accessible via a steep and narrow staircase, and there was no accessible bathroom on the main level, only on the lower level.

To accommodate needed accessibility features, and provide more space for the library’s operations, BLFR designed a 2,000-square-foot addition. The ground level of the new addition, accessible from the new parking lot, features an elevator and a wide stairway up to the main level, two bathrooms, a climate-controlled archive room (with indexed records dating back to the 1600s), a bookshelf dedicated to the library’s ongoing book sale (now in it’s 30th year), and a multi-use room, with a refrigerator and sink, intended for community group gatherings and children’s programs. On the main level, the addition includes a quiet reading room, two more bathrooms and space for archival displays.