Learning Commons @ Queset House
When you first lay eyes on the Queset House, most people are bowled over - and then they step INSIDE. It is truly amazing, and likewise inspiring. When thinking about what we could envision this building as being for the Ames Free Library, we immediately thought of a common building that the whole community could share in - be in - a place that enhanced the library’s mission of serving the Town of Easton.
The Learning Commons @ Queset House is now an integral part of the vibrant Ames Free Library campus. Looking back, it’s hard to believe we could have survived without it. It is a thrumming hive of activity from open to close, hosting diverse programs daily and supplementing the traditional library experience with additional educational, personal, professional, and recreational opportunities for the taking, all free of charge. Repeating programs include film screenings, gaming, Legos, beading, knitting, quilting, needlework, and meditation; and we regularly offer special events featuring talented local artists and musicians.
When working on getting the Queset House up and running we were inspired by a quote from one of our favorite authors, Ray Bradbury. He once asked “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” Interestingly enough, this sentiment, boiled down to its essence and restated elegantly by our Director, Uma Hiremath, was the lynchpin holding together our shared vision for the building: classic exterior and savvy interior. The historical look and feel of the house remains firmly intact, and we have outfitted it with the latest and greatest technology, neatly tucked away to remain unobtrusive until needed. For this library space is BOTH the past AND the future, all under one roof. We wanted to let everyone enjoy the beauty of the building, but renovate it to be as useable and future-friendly as possible, all while keeping the elegance firmly in place. We daresay that our mission has been a success.
In the summer of 2014, the Author-in-Residence program launched, almost unintentionally. We had always planned for something like this - after all, the Queset House was once a full-time residence, and the thought was that someday we might be able to host an author or visiting artist here, helping inspire them as they inspired us. But one day, entirely by happenstance, we received an unsolicited request from an author to do just that, and after a few emails and phone calls back and forth, our Author-in-Residence program began in earnest. For our inaugural run, author Kate Klise (over 25 books!) traveled all the way from her home in the Missouri Ozarks to spend an entire month here, living in the house and doing programs for the library and community. It was an amazing experience for all involved. We’ve since had Maine author Randy Spencer stay with us, Kate Klise has become a regular resident, and we expect to see many more authors as time goes on.
The Learning Commons @ Queset House has devoted a portion of its space to technology, from high to low-tech and all areas in between. There are multiple video game consoles with dozens of video games for patrons to play, either solo or with a few friends in an impromptu tournament. But technology isn’t all game-related; in the spirit of information preservation and archiving, the Queset House Digital Media Lab offers conversion technologies. In the Digital Media Lab, Queset House visitors can digitally preserve the video footage contained in their old VHS tapes, or the pictures created on slide film. Once the digital files are created, they can then be loaded onto other devices or shared easily with friends and family. The Digital Media Lab also houses computers (with dozens of software programs), external hard drives, a scanner, cameras, and digital drawing tablets, all for sparking the creativity that lies within. This room is all about making your own artistic creation accessible for the world to enjoy, which ties into the purpose of the Learning Commons: to create versus to consume, to add your own work to part of a growing, living collection, and to inspire others to do the same!
Meeting space is highly sought after by members of our community, and therefore we are happy to offer this building to all interested parties. The results have been astounding; since Queset House first opened to the public, Town groups like the Economic Development Council, Open Spaces Committee, the Historical Commission and the Commission on Disabilities use the rooms and technology frequently. Educational groups like homeschoolers, tutors, OAHS Robotics Clubs and STEM Education Team Meetings have made us their home away from home. We’ve also hosted local politicians like Senator Kennedy and Representative Shaunna O'Connell, who’ve held open hours for the community. From Toastmasters, Homeowners Associations, Unions and Mom’s Clubs, the Queset House has been a boon for the community.
As the community grows and changes, the Learning Commons @ Queset House is poised to change with it, nimble enough to supply patrons with the tools to create what they want, and the knowledge to help foster innovation and creativity for decades to come. As technology makes leaps and bounds, we will leap with it, and continue to make sure that our past informs our future. The old traditions of creating, crafting, and making are being nurtured once again, intertwining librarianship and community in a way that makes both that much stronger. We have seen how successful this has been, and hope the community will treasure this old place for another hundred years.