Amherst funds sought to safeguard Jones Library’s special collections

  • The Jones Library. JERREY ROBERTS

  • The atrium of the Jones Library in Amherst last August.

Staff Writer
Published: 1/18/2020 1:52:47 PM
Modified: 1/18/2020 1:51:50 PM

AMHERST — Library officials preparing for the $35.6 million project to renovate and expand the Jones Library, with a grant from the state’s Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners possibly coming this summer, are in the midst of pursuing additional funding from the town’s Community Preservation Act account.

Last month, a request for $1.5 million, or $300,000 a year over five years, was submitted to the CPA Committee, to assist in building out a new space for the special collections department.

In appealing for the money, Library Director Sharon Sharry writes in the application that it will supplement a $13.87 million state grant and various other sources, including $270,000 already committed by donors. The appropriation would be contingent on the renovation and expansion project being approved by the Town Council, which must make a decision on borrowing a projected $15.08 million within six months of any state grant announcement.

In the request, Sharry notes that the “project seeks to safeguard permanently the records of Amherst’s history; provide space large enough to protect the entire archive; allow for the continuing acquisition of items in order to represent better the citizenry of Amherst; and to make this one-of-a-kind collection available to the entire community.”

The project seeks to expand special collections from 4,200 square feet to 6,500 square feet, provide better climate control and be more visible and accessible to patrons.

The request observes that researchers come from across the globe to access the Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost collections. Those include artifacts such as account books of the Cutler & Co. dry goods store, which show Dickinson’s penchant for baking, and 111 manuscript poems by Frost, including an early draft of “Stopping by Woods.”

“They are at risk due to lack of climate control, lack of space and lack of security, and the longer they remain improperly housed, the more severe the damage to the collections,” Sharry writes. “This is a one-time opportunity to remediate all of these problems, with a substantial part of the cost borne by sources other than the town.”

Those sources could include $1.6 million in historic tax credits, $2.25 million from a community campaign giving and $650,000 from the Mass Cultural Facilities Fund.

The CPA Committee will learn more about the proposal at its meeting Jan. 23, which begins at 6 p.m. at the police station community room.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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