Guest columnist Kent Faerber and Lee Edwards: In Amherst, here we go again

  • The Jones Library in 2021.

Published: 8/21/2022 5:03:44 PM
Modified: 8/21/2022 5:00:12 PM

It’s the Amherst Way — when you don’t like a decision, do everything possible to revisit, study again, and again, and again, and procrastinate until you end up with ... a 40% cost inflation from the delay.

Jeff Lee’s guest column about the Jones Library building project (“Public libraries are shedding books and losing visitors — why do we make them bigger?” Aug. 17) is the same-old, same-old that got us in the pickle we find ourselves now, and does nothing but suggest that the problem be foisted off on to the next generation, in spades.

His equation of book borrowing and the size of the building reveals just how little he knows about what the Jones does. The reason libraries all across the state are expanding is because residents are now appreciating just how much more libraries contribute to the health of their communities than lend books.

The Jones Library is — and has been since its construction in 1928 — the center of our community, an essential piece of the infrastructure that makes our community what it is. The Jones’ meeting rooms are used over 1,000 times each year. Some 16,000 hours of English as a second language tutoring take place in the building each year. The computers are used over 25,000 times each year by people who do not otherwise have access to this essential tool of modern living and working. Our heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is beyond repair, leaking on an irreplaceable Special Collections that attract over 600 visitors every year. When all these patrons visit the building, they also eat in our restaurants, stay in our inns, and otherwise contribute to our local economy.

We can solve the problem of this once-every-100-year tsunami of construction cost inflation, just like our 12-year planning process has addressed the other problems with the state of the current Jones building. Amherst residents have chosen to leverage public and private funds for an expanded, flexible, welcoming, climate-friendly building that also restores vital aspects of the original 1928 structure.

Through our robust capital campaign, we can meet this financial challenge without affecting our town’s ability to do the other major capital projects it needs; scrapping the Library project will not, repeat not, provide any more funds for these other projects. Urgent safety repairs and required accessibility modifications will cost more than the town’s commitment to the proposed project, a commitment approved by Town Council and 65% of voters last year. The cost of any other alternative has increased just as dramatically .

Further delays will only increase the cost of each project, making them all less likely. So unless stopping all of the capital projects in their tracks is what Mr. Lee wants, the prudent financial choice is to roll up our collectives sleeves, and keep going.

Lee Edwards and Kent W. Faerber co-chair the Jones Library Capital Campaign.


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