Construction begins on Five Colleges library annex

  • The ground breaking event for the Five College Library Annex at the 12-acre parcel Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • People take photos during the ground breaking event for the Five College Library Annex at the 12-acre parcel Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • A rendering of the Five Colleges library annex that is being built in Hatfield. CUTLER DESIGN

  • Alex Wirth-Cauchon, left, and Neal Abraham, right, speak during the ground breaking event for the Five College Library Annex at the 12-acre parcel Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • Neal Abraham, executive director of Five Colleges, talks during the ground breaking event for the Five College Library Annex at the 12-acre parcel Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Thursday for the Five Colleges library annex in Hatfield. GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • Neal Abraham, left, executive director of Five Colleges, talks during the ground breaking event for the Five College Library Annex at the 12-acre parcel Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • Neal Abraham, executive director of Five Colleges, talks during the ground breaking event for the Five College Library Annex at the 12-acre parcel Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • Kevin Kennedy, left, and Neal Abraham, right, speak during the ground breaking event for the Five College Library Annex at the 12-acre parcel Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • Alex Wirth-Cauchon, left, and Neal Abraham, right, speak during the ground breaking event for the Five College Library Annex at the 12-acre parcel Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

  • Shovels go into the ground during the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Five Colleges library annex in Hatfield on Thursday. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of May. GAZETTE STAFF/ANDREW J. WHITAKER

@cmlindahl
Published: 9/16/2016 2:58:42 AM

HATFIELD — As Five Colleges Inc. enjoys its 50th year of collaboration among the county’s institutions of higher education, the consortium celebrated a “milestone” Thursday when it broke ground on a new library annex that will one day house 2 million volumes.

The 35,000-square-foot building is being built on a 12-acre parcel off Plain Road, adjacent to Interstate 91 at a cost of between $12 million and $12.5 million. The annex will house rarely circulating books and journals from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College and Smith College.

Such volumes are currently housed in a former military bunker on Bare Mountain in South Amherst. The bunker was renovated and opened as a book depository in 2002. Since then, the growing collection, which now stands at 600,000 volumes, has outgrown the space.

On Thursday, Five College administrators and those from its member institutions gathered at the Hatfield site for a ceremonial groundbreaking. Construction began on Monday after preparation work on the site started in May.

Neal Abraham, executive director of the consortium, said the new library annex represents a milestone for collaboration in higher education.

“It is perhaps propitiously timed,” he said, referring to the 50th anniversary of the Five College Consortium. The colleges, however, have worked together for over a century when some members joined together to offer courses to mill workers and members of the military. 

Since then, collaboration has included a merged library catalog, the establishment of local NPR affiliate WFCR, intercampus bus service and cross-institutional registration for students of member colleges.

Officials expect the annex to be completed by the end of next May, when Smith College will begin transferring over 1 million titles to Hatfield. Those volumes will be stored there until August 2019 as its Nielsen Library undergoes renovations.

“This is going to help Smith greatly over the next few years,” said Susan Fliss, who started work as the new dean of libraries at the college this week.

Books and periodicals from the other four institutions will also be stored at the annex and others will continue to be stored in the bunker.

Readers request about 5,000 titles from the Five College Library Repository Collection each year. About 60 percent of those requests are met by making digital copies of materials such as archive journal articles that were published before the internet, Abraham said.

Requests are also delivered by mail and by a courier who makes trips to and from the bunker twice daily. 

Abraham said there is great value in having paper copies of material that may also be available online. Anything that has not been published digitally, he said, must be photographed in order to be viewed on a computer. But that process can distort information such as scientific graph points and offer less-than-desired resolution in the case of art books, for example.

And the Five College collection includes books once owned by faculty and others, many of which include notes and references handwritten in the margins. “Marginalia,” as that is called, has attracted people interested in learning about what people were thinking when they were reading certain materials, Abraham said.

Five Colleges ha sa “last copy” policy in which member institutions that plan to eliminate a volume from their libraries ensure that one copy of the volume is archived, he said.

After four years of planning, consortium officials last year selected a site in Hadley between North Maple Street and Rocky Hill Road. But a permit was denied by town planners, who argued that the proposed 74,000-square-foot building did not conform to zoning regulations and could not be considered an educational use. Such a use allows for zoning rules to be circumvented. 

Five Colleges officials initially planned to appeal the Planning Board decision, but in April announced plans for the smaller project in Hatfield.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com.




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