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Forbes Library in Northampton seeking funds to replace entrance lift with elevator

The project would do away with an unreliable electric-powered lift at the library’s entrance. So far, the library is about a third of the way toward raising the $200,000 it needs to buy and install the elevator inside the library’s front door, said Director Janet Moulding.

Moulding said the lift, when it’s working, lurches and makes loud noise.

“Knock on wood, it’s functioning at this precise moment,” Moulding said Wednesday morning. “It’s like the scariest amusement park ride you’ve every been on.”

The lift was shut down for a total of seven months last year because of several problems, with the library spending most of that time waiting for tough-to-find parts.

Moulding said the lift is used between six and 10 times a day, or nearly 1,900 times a year — far more than it is designed to accommodate.

The lift is needed because none of the floors in the Victorian-style library building are at ground level. Once inside the building, users can access an indoor elevator to get to any level.

With funding from the city tough to come by — requests for capital improvement money from the city have gone unfilled and the project does not qualify for Community Preservation Act money — trustees decided they didn’t want to wait to move ahead with a project that improves accessibility for all.

“We’ve had lots and lots of complaints from people who couldn’t get into the library,” Moulding said. “That’s devastating to a librarian ... for something that is so fundamental and simple.”

The Forbes For All fundraising campaign, chaired by Michael and Judy Ryan, has received $70,000 in donations, including $25,000 from the Friends of Forbes Library and $20,000 from Smith College. Another $13,000 will come in the form of Community Development Block Grant funds.

Work on the project will begin as soon as the money is raised and take about two months to install. The elevator will require some excavation and cut into the existing granite steps.

Moulding said trustees initially considered construction of a ramp to provide access, but such a project would have had to stretch to the back of the building to meet steepness requirements.

The elevator, she said, will be more reliable and easier to operate. The building’s interior elevator has had few down days or repair expenses since it was installed in the 1980s.

To donate to the campaign, visit forbeslibrary.org.

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