WESTERLY — Patrons of the Westerly Library will soon be able to take out a cappuccino along with their books and movies, or just sit inside and sip on a latté, at the new coffee shop scheduled for a late May or early June opening.
“Coffee and books just seem to go together,” said library Executive Director Brigitte Hopkins Monday morning as she watched construction begin inside the former circulation area on the first floor outside the Old Main Reading Room. “We’re always looking for ways to improve the experience of our patrons and we thought this would be a perfect addition.”
“I’m excited … we’re all very excited,” she added. “It just makes sense to provide another amenity for our patrons.”
Plans also call for a few other upgrades and changes, Hopkins said, including changes to the reading room, the purchase of “soft, comfortable and more inviting” new sofas and arm chairs, and a new floor at the Hoxie entrance.
The new floor will require the entrance to be closed during the renovation process. Patrons will be asked to use the esplanade entrance and book drops, she said. A temporary ramp has already been placed outside the side entrance for handicap accessibility.
Richard W. Constantine, a member of the library board of trustees who sits on the building committee, said the renovation will also allow more light to flow into the library. A set of French doors, once used as the entry to the children’s room, will be repurposed and installed in the Hoxie entryway, and the two large doors at the memorial entrance will be opened once again and remain open to let more light into the room.
“We are keeping everything consistent with the historical aspects of the building,” he added. “It will be brighter and historically consistent.”
Pariseault Builders, a fourth-generation, family-owned general contracting firm based in Warwick, is completing the project, Constantine said.
The former circulation area, once the office of longtime librarian Sallie Coy, can now become both an attraction — and a way to bring in new people — and a convenience for existing library users, said Hopkins.
“We have patrons who spend a great deal of their time in the library, reading and studying,” she said. “This will allow them a comfortable space to read and study with coffee in hand.”
Hopkins said the cafe will also sell small pastries, cookies and muffins.
“Coming into the library is always an experience,” added Hopkins, who has served as executive director since 2014. “This will make it even more of an experience.”
”I hope people will understand and be patient if there’s some noise,” added Hopkins as a saw buzzed in the background. “And I’m crossing my fingers it will be through by May … June at the latest.”
”I’m so thrilled it’s getting started,” said board member Mary Goodman as she observed the temporary wall being erected around the soon-to-be library café. “It’s going to be a great place to meet.”
Hopkins said a generous donation from one anonymous couple is allowing for the creation of the café, which will be overseen by another couple.
Tim and Erika Lebling of Pawcatuck, who run the café part of Savoy Bookshop and Café and also own Wakin’ Up Waggin’, the coffee cart inside the Westerly branch of the Ocean Community YMCA, will manage the library coffee shop, Hopkins said.
“For us, it is a privilege,” said Tim Lebling. “To be invited to be part of such an established organization is fantastic … and I think it will be fantastic for the community. It’s another place for community members to gather and enjoy a cup of coffee and a muffin.”
And a good book, too.