HARVARD — The library project greatly extended the size and scope of a valued town resource, preserved a valuable piece of town history and created a beautiful building.
The current Town Hall building project has similar goals, according to Building Committee Chairman Peter Jackson, who also served on the earlier building committee.
But the library project was not so much an ambitious effort as a successful one, in Jackson’s view.
That is apparently an important distinction to those who shepherded the project to completion, particularly the library trustees.
Jackson, too, is a library trustee, although he was not at the time of the project, he said.
When the new library was unveiled, the trustees, state and town officials and others called the outcome of the project spectacular, awesome and magnificent, to name a few of the sparkly adjectives used to describe it at the opening.
If memory serves, one of the speakers was a Massachusetts library board representative who called it one of the most beautiful public libraries in the state.
Subjective comparisons aside, the new library is a handsome facility in which the choreographed combination of old and new features and fixtures marries the renovated antique former school building known as Old Bromfield to the modern addition, sized to scale and elegantly designed, inside and out.
But Jackson took exception to the word “ambitious” when it was used to describe the project in a Harvard Hillside newspaper article. Called “arguably the town’s most ambitious building project to date” in that story, Jackson said in an email commentary that the word and its phrasing implied “most expensive.”
If so, it was an accidental consequence.
The intended implication was that the effort was challenging, visionary, far-reaching, even brave. But the word ambitious was certainly not chosen as a synonym for expensive.
“If ‘ambitious’ means total project cost, including state and other outside funding,” the school project far outdistanced the library, according to Jackson’s email commentary.
“The cost to the town for the library project was $2.6 million,” he wrote. “I believe that the Public Safety Building had a higher town contribution.”
As for the library project, Jackson later told the Hillside it was a “major undertaking” that won several awards for design and the quality of its architecture.
In a brief phone conversation, he said some of the trustees were upset with the notion that the library project might be considered “ambitious” compared to other town projects in recent years, such as the Public Safety Building and the school building project that added an expansive wing and new library to The Bromfield School.
In a word, the library project was successful, he said. “It worked out well and we’re proud of it.”
Indeed, his experience with the library building project has informed some of the choices the THBC has made, as well as providing telling anecdotes as the Town Hall project moves forward and the group continues to meet and report back to the selectmen.
Although the current building project is “much simpler” than the earlier one, Jackson said the THBC is aiming for the same kind of high quality product, within appropriate parameters.
Hopefully, the Town Hall makeover, like the new library, will be a successful project that townspeople can take pride in for many years to come, he said.
But when all is said and done, those describing it might want to choose their adjectives carefully and avoid the word ambitious.