VIDEO South Hadley Public Library prepares to open new building on Canal Street

Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2014
SOUTH HADLEY — After seven-plus years of hard work, the South Hadley Public Library is moving into its new $10.1 million building at 2 Canal St.

“It’s been an exciting ride,” said Director Joseph Rodio, taking a break from setting up in the library’s gleaming new quarters which include large windows that bring sunlight streaming into the reading areas.

The move this week involved packing 50,000 items in its collection at 27 Bardwell St. and moving them to the newly finished building just a few blocks away. The Bardwell Street location had been occupied for more than a century.

The new building will be open to the public as soon as the computers for checking out books and other library holdings are up and running, which is expected to be next week. One of the larger furniture deliveries was delayed until the end of September so library patrons will need to make do with temporary furniture until then.

A formal dedication is planned for Sept. 13. Work on the library began with a groundbreaking May 1, 2013, and wrapped up this summer.

In the interview this week, Rodio recalled his job interview eight years ago when he expressed his opinion that the old facility was not keeping up with the demands placed on it. A few months later the state announced a round of grants for planning and designing new libraries and South Hadley received one.

Ever since, a big part of his work has been shepherding the project along.

Now Rodio said he looks forward to a new phase of his job. “It will be nice to get this building open and instead of being a construction project manager I can get back to just being a librarian again,” he said.

The next five years, he said, will be focused on helping the community grow into the new edifice.

“It’s such a different building and it is such an improvement that it’s just so exciting to be here,” said Rodio. “I think the community will use this differently than they did the old building, especially the children’s areas and the teen room.”

He said he wants to expand programming that will include a large outdoor green area and that is part of the landscaping as well as more meeting space inside.

“This will really give us the chance to go in some new directions,” said Rodio.

The library paid National Library Relocations Inc., a company with offices in the Three Rivers section of Palmer, $12,000 to move the 3,403 linear feet of material.

“One of the great things is that they know libraries, they knew exactly what needed to get done,” said Rodio. “They measured the size of the collection at the old library and then compared that to the amount of shelving at the new library and then figured out how much each shelf needed to be filled in order to get the collection to fit properly.”

Rodio said it was heartening to see how much the community supported the library project.

“A lot of people lent their time and their talents to the project and to getting out the votes in order to get the approvals and the funding for this building,” he said.

The construction costs alone were $7.8 million.

A committee is still working on the program for the formal opening. The following day, Sept. 14, the third annual “Book It for the South Hadley Library” 5K road race and 2-mile walk will start and finish at the new facility on a route that includes scenic stretches along the Connecticut River. Registration starts at 8 a.m.

The town is seeking proposals from people interested in developing the old library building in the South Hadley Falls section of the town, which has an assessed property value of $419,200.

It was built in 1906 with a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie and was expanded in 1974. Assistant Town Administrator Jennifer Wolowicz said several people have expressed interest in the site. Preference will be given to proposals that preserve the building’s exterior historical significance and architectural prominence. The deadline for submitting formal proposals originally set for the end of August was extended to Sept. 25.

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com.