Libraries in Amherst and Hadley win $50,000 state grants to plan improvements



Last modified: Sunday, June 08, 2014

AMHERST — A $50,000 planning and design grant will allow the Jones Library to begin preparing for an expansion and renovation project that could begin later this decade.

Amherst was one of 20 communities awarded $959,425 in planning and design grants from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Thursday. The grants are the first step for cities and towns interested in getting in line for funding through the board’s Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program.

Hadley was the only other Hampshire County town to receive a grant, also obtaining $50,000 for determining how to improve the Goodwin Memorial Library. Hadley voters at annual Town Meeting last month approved spending $25,000 from the Community Preservation Act account to match this grant.

Jones Library Director Sharon Sharry said she expects the planning and design work to begin in October, when a consultant begins examining the main branch’s needs and how its 50,000 square foot space should be used.

“I look forward to working with everyone, including community members, on rethinking the space needs of the Jones Library,” Sharry said.

The library, which opened in 1928, was last expanded and renovated in 1993, after being awarded a $2.6 million state construction grant for a $4.6 million project that added more than 12,000 square feet on three levels and upgraded the heating, air conditioning, plumbing and wiring.

But more than 20 years later, the library’s application to the state program outlined numerous deficiencies. Among the issues listed are a cluttered children’s room, the long distances between the entrances and the circulation desk, leaks in the atrium roof and duct tape-cover wires.

Library officials also want to resolve issues that include temperature extremes inside, snow and ice falling off the slate roof at the main entrance and the fact that the meeting room is inaccessible after hours.

Any building project proposed through the planning and design process would still be three to five years away, depending on both state and local funding, Sharry said.

She expressed her appreciation to staff, trustees and Friends of the Jones Library for putting together the grant application and to Town Manager John Musante, members of the Select Board and Finance Committee, and Town Meeting members for their support. Town Meeting in April appropriated a $25,000 match required by the state.

Trustees President Austin Sarat said that renovating and modernizing the Jones is a priority. “Getting this grant is the first step in that process,” he said.

Sarat also praised Sharry’s leadership on the issue. “We would not have gotten to this point without the vision and hard work of Sharon Sharry. We are very grateful to her and look forward to working with her as the planning process proceeds.”

Caryn Perley, co-chairwoman of the Hadley library trustees, said getting the state money will provide options for renovations or an addition at Goodwin or possible seeking a new site for the town library.

“This grant will give us funds to bring in experts to consult with the trustees to evaluate current and future library services, match those services with the needs and desires of the community, and determine the optimum space for providing those services,” Perley said.

This work will conclude with a schematic design of the option selected by the trustees and building committee.

Perley added that the library has other projects in the building underway, with money provided from property taxes, the CPA account, the Friends of Goodwin and a gift bequeathed by former Select Board member Kate Nugent.

State board chairman Frank Murphy said in a statement that the funding demonstrates both Gov. Deval Patrick and the legislature’s recognition that libraries are vital to communities.

“The role of the library as a true community center continues to evolve and these grants help communities take the first step toward projects that benefit every resident,” he said.

Planning and design grants can be used for a variety of purposes, including preparation of a library building program, architectural feasibility studies and schematic designs. This is the fifth planning and design grant round offered by the library commissioners since 1999, with 81 grants issued during that time.

Through the building program, more than 200 communities have completed library construction projects, including both Granby and Westhampton during the 2008 state bond authorization. A project under this 2008 bond is also underway in South Hadley.


 

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