Saturday July 6, 2013

Andrew McKeever

Manchester Journal

MANCHESTER -- Ceremonial shovels weren’t needed last week for the groundbreaking formalities for the new Manchester Community Library. A large hole in the ground off Cemetery Avenue, near the corner of Main Street, said the work was already well underway.

Library officials hope construction is complete by the fall of 2014, said Betsy Bleakie, the library’s executive director, during the course of her remarks at the ceremony.

"Our new library will be a community education center, a technology center, a community reading and information center, and most of all ... will be a gathering place or ‘commons’ for connecting people, for sharing views and incubating new ideas, for collaborating and strengthening relationships," Bleakie said.

The groundbreaking ceremony also was the platform for announcing a new challenge grant made by the James and Irene Hunter Family Foundation. The charitable foundation, which has been involved in several area philanthropic initiatives, including Hunter Park at Riley Rink, Long Trail School, Northshire Day School and Burr and Burton Academy, will match gifts of $5,000 or more, up to a grand total of $500,000. Combined with a previous gift of $500,000, the Hunter Family Community Challenge could yield up to $1.5 million towards the anticipated total of $6.6 million library officials are hoping to raise.

About $5.4 million of that is for construction costs. A further $1 million is planned to be put into the library’s endowment fund, which already has $1 million in place. That initial $1 million in endowment fund money was drawn from an earlier gift of $2.2 million made in 2006 by Lyn Hoyt, a former resident of Manchester and library supporter.

One of Lyn Hoyt’s nephew’s, Tony Hoyt, described his aunt’s attachment to the Mark Skinner Library -- the present town library located in Manchester Village which will be closed when the new library is completed next year. Library trustees are hoping to sell that building and turn it over to new ownership. "Lyn had a special love for the Mark Skinner Library and was a reader of all kinds of books and periodicals," Tony Hoyt said during his groundbreaking ceremony remarks, adding that his aunt also enjoyed popular fiction as well as, by implication, the more high brow variety.

The Hunter Challenge will enable the library to get a running start towards raising the roughly 26 percent of the funds for the endowment and other costs of the library’s construction that they haven’t already raised, said Christine Miles, the chairwoman of the library’s capital campaign.

In an announcement that accompanied the event, Miles stated that the Hunter financial gift would be a major boost for their fund-raising efforts.

"What this means is that if you make a gift of $5,000 or more to the capital campaign the Hunter Family Community Challenge will double it," Miles stated. "We hope that this will be the incentive for all those who have given and will give to make their gifts go much farther."

Susan Hunter, a daughter of James and Irene Hunter, and who is also the honorary chairwoman of the library’s capital campaign, also spoke at the groundbreaking event. She told the assembled audience of about 100 people that she was initially skeptical about whether or not, in the 21st century, new libraries were really the sorts of projects the family foundation was interested in investing money in. But she was persuaded that the nature of the planned building made it a compelling idea, she said.

Manchester has developed a strong educational structure and a new library would be an important component of that, she said.

"The emphasis is on an institution that will benefit everyone," she said. "The collaborative nature of this library appeals to us."

In the statement that accompanied the groundbreaking ceremony, Hunter expanded on the reasons that her family foundation decided to support the new library.

"We have chosen to support this project because of the terrific planning that has gone into it," she said. "The new Manchester Community Library has precisely the broad community benefit that our parents always supported. We hope that our fund’s challenge will bring the remaining donors to the table in a meaningful way."

When completed, the roughly 18,500 square-foot structure will include a large community meeting room, a pre-school and children’s area, a loft-like space for young adults as well as a seminar/conference room and space for the Manchester Historical Society and the Vermont Reading Partners.