Jones Library negotiates with Amherst Historical Society over acquiring land for expansion

Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2016

AMHERST — Jones Library and Amherst Historical Society officials are nearing an agreement for the library to acquire a portion of the neighboring ¾-acre property to accommodate a proposed expansion and renovation project.

Library Director Sharon Sharry said in an email Wednesday that she anticipates a memorandum of understanding will be approved by the society’s board by March 1, which will be followed by Jones Library trustees endorsing the agreement at their March 10 meeting.

“The (memorandum) will probably go back and forth a couple times between the parties, and at some point in February the historical society board will need to vote its approval,” Sharry said.

But any agreement also needs additional approvals from the public charities division in the state attorney general’s office and a probate court judge, said James Wald, president emeritus of the society.

Sharry said Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek is sketching what an expanded footprint for the library might look like. This sketch will accompany the agreement and be reviewed by the judge.

“If the judge doesn’t approve the sale of the property to the library, then our architects will design a renovated/expanded building using only the library’s back yard,” Sharry said.

Sharry said the memorandum of understanding will focus on four areas, including what portion of the historical society grounds will be sold, how much the society will be paid, whether the library and Strong House museum will be connected physically and how the organizations will be linked programmatically.

Both organizations met Tuesday to begin discussing the process, with representatives including library trustees Tamson Ely and Jonathan McCabe, library facilities director George Hicks and library curator Cyndi Harbeson, along with society president Georgia “Gigi” Barnhill, society board members Bonnie MacCracken and Wald, and society curator Marianne Curling.

The current draft agreement is being reviewed by town counsel Kopelman and Paige.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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