Michael Robbins: Amherst deserves the library the trustees envision

Published: 1/8/2021 4:19:28 PM
Modified: 1/8/2021 4:19:14 PM

The fate of the proposal of the trustees to renovate the Jones Library and accept a $13.6 million grant will depend on a vote of the Town Council in April. The library was built 93 years ago when libraries were basically places to store hard copies of books that readers might borrow. Times have changed and contemporary community needs include sophisticated digital storage and search facilities open to all, places to store music and display art, to teach classes, gathering places for adult and community activities for adults and children, and even a place for psychologically disturbed people who already hang out in community centers like the library and our churches because they have no other place to go during the day.

It is our good fortune to live in a community that benefits from cultural activities sponsored by surrounding colleges and the university, and from the Cinema Arts Center, a nonprofit private venture. That should not blind us to a larger vision. The town has been using its money for maintenance of essential functions like roads, schools, police and fire safety, and has not funded a single major community building project since construction of the architecturally striking police station 30 years ago.

Contrast our situation with that of Princeton, New Jersey, a town with a population actually smaller than that of Amherst that also has a university imbedded within it. Princeton has a large, beautiful, hospitable library that offers a remarkable range of cultural opportunities and services to the community, and whose design welcomes people to come, hang out, and interact.

Amherst deserves the library the trustees envision and we as members of the community that can enable it ought to be willing to contribute money, in donations if possible, in taxes in any case, in order to do so.

Michael Robbins, M.D.


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