Library Executive Director Betsy Bleakie stands with Gov. Peter Shumlin as he tours the Manchester Community Library on Tuesday afternoon./Holly
Library Executive Director Betsy Bleakie stands with Gov. Peter Shumlin as he tours the Manchester Community Library on Tuesday afternoon./Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com

MANCHESTER -- "Fantastic" was the word Gov. Peter Shumlin kept saying when touring the new Manchester Community Library Tuesday afternoon.

Manchester is currently served by the Mark Skinner Library, but in October, Betsy Bleakie, executive director of the library, said all services will be moving into the new building on Cemetery Avenue.

Shumlin came to visit the project, which he said is the largest library project in the state in the last 20 years.

"Congratulations to all of you for making this happen," Shumlin said. "This is something that will bless this community for 300 years."

Bleakie, who led the tour with the help of Christine Miles, co-chair of the capital campaign, noted that the project has been completely funded by private philanthropy. Walking through the building, Shumlin looked all around and listened while Bleakie pointed out different features of the library. After walking through the front doors, she led Shumlin and the group to the cafe commons, an area to sit and talk, while also offering snacks.

Shumlin noticed the light installation in the building, which is still being finished, and wanted to know more about the energy efficiency of the building. Built using LEED Silver standards, the building includes high efficiency windows and an air source heat pump, Bleakie said.

Walking into the main portion of the building, Bleakie pointed out how it will house most of the books, displayed she said in a way that is more like a bookstore than a traditional library.


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Along with books and places to read and work, this is also where technology -- such as computers -- will be found in the library.

One of the unique portions of the library is the community room, which will be a revenue stream for the library, Bleakie said.

"That is so smart," Shumlin said.

Chris Cole, construction manager of the project, said this project has created around 80 to 100 jobs in the area. Cole told Shumlin there were around 25 contractors that worked on the project, from electricians to masons.

"It's been a joint effort," Cole said.

In the lower level of the library, Bleakie highlighted the conference room and touchdown work spaces. The workstations can be rented for a period of time for people who work from home or need an office area.

"The conference room can be utilized for all education levels," Bleakie said.

Shumlin wanted to understand more about the process of getting to this place. When Miles was library president, a strategic plan was created, because she said the Mark Skinner Library building at 48 West Road was getting older and the endowment was getting picked away. They had an idea, but it would take funding.

"We received an unbelievable gift," Miles said.

A bequest of $2.5 million from Lyn Hoyt helped kick start the project, Miles said, and every step that has been made has gotten the project to where it is now. All in, from strategic plan to the building of the new library, the project has taken almost 10 years, she said.

Throughout the tour, Bleakie and Miles, as well as others, stressed the community aspect of the library. Bleakie likes to refer to the new Manchester library as a community center. With this aspect of community in Mind, Miles said it was important for the library to be an anchor of the northern portion of downtown and to be in walking distance of school.

"When I talk to people, once they hear it is more of a community resource center as opposed to just a place to check out books, they get it," Miles said.