Matthew Blumenfeld: Without expansion, Jones is inadequate

Published: 5/23/2016 9:18:37 AM
Without expansion, Jones is inadequate

EDITOR’S NOTE: Amherst Town Meeting rejected an article to rezone the Amherst Historical Society’s property needed for Jones Library expansion.

There has been understandable concern expressed about the effort to renovate and expand the Jones Library.

Having worked on many library capital projects, the Jones’ current inadequacies — particularly for those who need it most — are obvious and fixable. Our library should be the place for everyone to come together to learn, enjoy and grow and it is for many, but not for key parts of our community.

Our growing low- and fixed-income populations need a place that provides more access to technology and programming. We need private study spaces for tutoring and mentoring, a dedicated young adult area, and spaces for students to come together for group study and to apply research skills.

Today’s Jones meets only some of these needs. The fact is that the opportunity to address the building’s weaknesses systematically with substantial support from the state only comes about every eight to 10 years. The library has engaged in a serious and open process for more than a year and has involved many volunteers from throughout the community.

The design team is incredibly well qualified to take on historic preservation and expansion work. The guidelines being followed are there to help the Jones create the best possible library for the next 20 (more likely 50) years.

From the perspective of the design team, staff and the building planning committee, being able to put on an addition that “squares off” the building is by far the best option. It is best because it allows for greater efficiencies in patron and staff workflow, enabling the Jones to better fulfill its mission of serving all patrons.

Acquiring some land from the Strong House is necessary, and they are a willing partner. The requested rezoning cannot lead to any other development.

Without the transfer, it will be difficult to create a design that will be competitive for a critical state grant. Without this funding the project will fail and the Jones will remain a beloved but inadequate facility for the foreseeable future.

Matthew Blumenfeld

Amherst




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