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Hadley Historical Society begins move out of library

  • FILE PHOTO<br/>After a long dispute, the Hadley Historical Society is moving its collection out of the Goodwin Memorial Library.
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In an email update discussed at the Select Board meeting Feb. 6, trustees co-chairwoman Caryn Perley notified the board that the Historical Society was removing items from the library. According to the email, the trustees have also begun moving the library director’s office to the second floor and have installed new locks so only library staff can unlock the building.

Jane Babcock, the director of the library, said she first noticed Historical Society members removing items from the second floor around Jan. 13. She said they continued to remove pieces of the collection, including boxes of documents, clothing and scrapbooks, over the next couple of weeks.

Society treasurer Merle Buckhout, the only member of the organization the Gazette was able to reach, declined to comment on the group’s decision to remove the items or say where they are now being stored. Neither society member Tom McGee nor president Gordon Smith responded to the Gazette’s repeated requests for comment.

Town Administrator David Nixon said members of the Historical Society he has spoken to about the move have indicated that the items are being relocated to a building the society owns on Middle Street.

In the past, society members have said the Middle Street property is unsuitable for the collection because it is wooden and not secure against theft.

While the Historical Society is leaving the library, the trustees hope to continue working with the group to preserve the town’s history, according to Jo-Ann Konieczny, co-chairwoman of the library trustees. The trustees will hold a summit for all groups with an interest in the town’s history — including the Historical Society — Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the library. A preservation specialist from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners will come to discuss preservation and available funding.

The Historical Society, which is a private organization, has maintained a collection on the second floor of the Goodwin Memorial Library for almost half a century, though the artifacts have been held there longer. In recent years, the arrangement has been a source of contention as the library trustees have sought to use the space and advocated for the historical collection to be moved to a new location.

Konieczny said the trustees were not seeking to oust the Historical Society when they got new locks for the building. “There is someone in the library 40 hours a week, so we felt like there’s ample opportunity to get in there,” Konieczny said.

The trustees decided to move the library director’s office to the second floor in order to make room for a new circulation desk, according Konieczny, and they felt they needed to change the locks so that the library information in the office was secure.

Until the move, the Hadley library was confined to the first floor and the basement of the building, which total approximately 2,500 square feet of space. Konieczny said the tight confines have limited the events the library can hold and services they can offer. “We just don’t have an inch of space to put anything,” she said.

Some property that may be part of the Historical Society’s collection is still in the space, but the society has removed about six shelves full of boxes containing historical documents in addition to memorabilia.

The Select Board has heard from Historical Society members and the library trustees on the issue at several previous meetings, including on Dec. 19, when the board voted 3-2 to endorse the trustees’ decision to move the library director’s office to the second floor and change the locks. The board also supported a plan for the Historical Society to leave the library by the spring of 2014.

In the long term, library trustees will seek grant funding to make the second floor handicapped-accessible, Konieczny said.

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