The 2004 Town of Bow Master Plan states that a priority goal for the library was “… developing the downstairs space for programs and meeting space.” With the current building, the library serves approximately 50 different community groups that contain Bow residents through the Meeting Room and the Baker Room, with an average of 290 non-library-related meetings held in those spaces annually.
The Meeting Room was created as part of the renovation/expansion in 2000, and has a capacity of 32 individuals. Located off of the library’s vestibule, this room can be used outside of regular library operating hours (as early as 7 a.m., up to 11 p.m.), seven days per week.
The Baker Room was created with the 1967 addition, and has a capacity of 30 individuals. Located in the library’s basement, this room can only be used during regular library hours. The room once held what remains of the original library collection donated by Henry Baker in 1914. The collection has been moved into a secure storage area so that the items are not accidentally damaged by groups using the Baker Room for meeting purposes.
While the current meeting rooms at the library are heavily used, there are unmet meeting room needs in our community. We’ve had to turn away groups that could potentially have attendance greater than room capacity. Our ability to host larger family-focused library events is limited due to meeting room capacity and main library capacity (54 individuals at any time, excluding employees). Also, we’ve seen a major increase in group tutoring in our library, but do not allow the heavily used 30-person capacity meeting room to be reserved by a tutor (who is paid for their services) – it is simply not an appropriate use of current town resources. Group tutors use spaces within the main library, but there are problems with noise and activity level, particularly on week night afternoons and evenings.
The use of the library Meeting Room differs from all other meeting spaces in town due to the fact that any Bow resident can use it free of charge for non-profit, charitable meeting purposes between 7am and 11pm, seven days per week. No other space in town offers such broad, free use to its residents. While space at the high school can occasionally be available to non-profit groups for no cost, the time/day limitations are very stringent due to the primary function of the building as a school. The Old Town Hall, Community Building, and Town Hall have very limited free use by town commissions, committees, or boards; general non-profit/charitable groups that have Bow residents as members need to pay some kind of fee for use of those spaces.
The proposed meeting space additions in the library’s lower level include a 75-person meeting room, a sixteen-person meeting room, and two small (4-person) group tutoring rooms. The current Baker Room would be converted into a climate-controlled storage room for the Bow Heritage Commission. The Meeting Room on the first floor would remain unchanged. Making these changes will address the needs we’ve identified through surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one discussions with residents and group leaders. As a community hub, the library is uniquely positioned to address those needs now, finishing an already existing space within a building that currently serves as an important community gathering place.