Library to install Jim Stevenson-inspired railing

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 9:00am
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The Island Free Library will be installing a new steel hand railing at its side entrance inspired by the artwork of the late James Stevenson, a prolific illustrator and long-time cartoonist for The New Yorker.

“It will not just be a railing, but a work of art,” Trustee Dave Sniffen told The Block Island Times after the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, April 10. “It will incorporate some of Jim Stevenson’s artwork, and have the feel of Block Island.”

The Library’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously at the meeting to fund the $12,870 cost of the railing, which they hope to have fabricated in the summer, and installed in September or October. Trustee Lisa Nolan said the Trustees intend to fund the project in part from Trustee monies, a grant, and via the Friends of the Library. The Trustees are applying for a $7,500 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation.

“I think the idea for the library railing based on Jim’s drawings from his children’s books is a grand one!” said Stevenson’s spouse, Josie Merck. “I look forward to seeing what they are envisioning.” Stevenson died in 2017. “A jolly parade would be right in Jim’s artistic repertoire. And just about everyone needs a railing sooner or later in his life!”

Wasting no time at the meeting, the Trustees executed an agreement with The Steel Yard for designing, fabricating and installing the railing, while Treasurer William Feuer wrote a check for 50 percent of the cost, or $6,435, from the Trustees’ checking account to finance engagement of the contractor. The design for the project needs to be fleshed out, and will include public input, before the installation can occur.

Sniffen informed the Trustees that a representative from the Providence-based Steel Yard visited the library. “He brought out a few ideas,” he said. “He talked about different types of materials they could use. There was talk about incorporating some works of art from the books of Jim Stevenson.”  

“We talked about doing it in galvanized steel,” said Sniffen. “It’s probably the most durable material out there.” Galvanized steel is steel covered with a protective zinc coating to prevent rusting. “It probably requires the least amount of maintenance, which is the biggest consideration with the installation of railings.”

Sniffen said it was the first meeting between the library and the Steel Yard in which the vision and some ideas were shared about the project. “He’s going to come back in a short amount of time with a few ideas.”

“We should have a follow-up meeting where we invite the public” to weigh in on the project, said Chair Shirlyne Gobern. “They should have input on the project.”

“I think the way it works is that he’s the foreman, and he assigns it to an artist,” said Trustee Lisa Nolan, who noted that the question that needed to be answered was whether the Steel Yard should come back to the Trustees with a concept for the design, or await public input before creating a design.

The Trustees seemed to all agree that having an initial concept would be a good starting point. 

In an April 9 memo sent to the Trustees, the Steel Yard noted that the library’s “decision to contract with the Steel Yard is an opportunity to celebrate the Island Free Library’s unique identity while providing necessary amenities to people who work and live in the area.” The memo said the Steel Yard produces “functional public art,” and “all of our products are designed, created and manufactured by local artists and students.” 

Library broadband

In other news, the Trustees unanimously approved applying for a $35,000 Champlin Foundation grant to fund the library’s connection to the town’s Community Anchor Institution broadband network. The goal of the town and its advisory board, the New Shoreham Broadband Committee, is to have the CAI fiber optic broadband network operating by September of 2018.

Trustee Elizabeth Taylor said if the Champlin Foundation grant doesn’t work out, “the Friends of the Library are willing to help fund the broadband connection, if it is necessary.”  

The next meeting for the Library’s Board of Trustees is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, 2018 at 6 p.m.