Shutesbury voters OK override for $6M library project

  • A sign out front of the M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury thanking all who voted for the override to build a new library in Shutesbury. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A tiny library has been built as a replica of the M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury on the site where the new building will be built. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mary Anne Antonellis, the director of the M.N. Spear memorial Library in Shutesbury, stands at the site of the new library after the town voted for the override to build a new building. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mary Anne Antonellis, the director of the M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury, talks about recent vote where the town passed the override to build a new building in Shutesbury. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mary Anne Antonellis, the director of the M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury, stands with a sign thanking all who voted for the override to build a new library. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2022 9:49:36 PM

SHUTESBURY — On the heels of overwhelming approval at Town Meeting, residents solidified their support for a new library Tuesday by approving a Proposition 2½ override, 579-250, for the estimated $6.4 million project.

“I’m thrilled,” said library director Mary Anne Antonellis as she breathed a sigh of relief. “We really need a new library … ours is packed to the gills with books, audiobooks and magazines. There’s no place to move inside.”

The May 21 Town Meeting vote of 422-85 authorized spending almost $1.3 million and borrowing up to $1.17 million for a new library, with the condition that no money could be borrowed unless the town votes to exempt that borrowing from the Proposition 2½ requirements.

Approximately 54% of the town’s 1,524 registered voters cast ballots at Tuesday’s special town election, according to unofficial results posted on the town’s website by Town Clerk Grace Bannasch.

“This (vote) is a wonderful, wonderful moment for Shutesbury. It means we can build a community space where everyone is welcome. It’s historic,” said Susie Mosher, treasurer of the Friends of the Library. “I’m really glad we had clear, resounding support from the community.”

Getting to this point has been the work of many hands over the course of many years, says Kate Cell, co-chairperson of the Shutesbury board of library trustees.

The M.N. Spear Memorial Library building opened in 1902. Cell described the building as “adorable,” but she said the community of 1,788 had outgrown the building.

“It has served us well,” she said.

Fundraising

The Friends of the Library have had a steady fundraising drive that has continued over the past decade, raising more than $300,000 through bake sales, yard sales and unique community-building events, said Antonellis.

Among some of the more creative efforts were the spring “spruce up” events, in which a team of four adults would spend an hour doing yardwork with a homeowner and the homeowner would donate to the library.

“It was done in a way to connect people … they got to know each other,” said Cell. “The Friends of the Library have been so dedicated and creative in their efforts.”

The library has also served as a drop-off point for a cans and bottles collection, which has been mainly coordinated by volunteer Dave Mosher, Susie Mosher’s husband, according to Antonellis.

Last year, residents donated $3,000 worth of cans and bottles.

The more people who have learned about Mosher’s collection, the more have gotten involved. Those efforts will continue as Mosher brings roughly 3,000 items to be recycled every week.

“He’s almost reached that same number already this year,” Susie Mosher said. “He goes to the library once a day, sorts them out in our garage and brings them to the Templeton Redemption Center.”

Ongoing efforts

After the town decided against funding a new library in 2011, Cell said, Antonellis went right on working to make library services more accessible, creative and valuable to townspeople. She credited Antonellis with securing a number of grants that have helped fund programming at the library.

Antonellis said it was important not to let the building’s small size limit services.

“We’re really busy — we were ranked the second or third highest in attendance in the state for small towns and I wanted to continue to run as if we’re already in that larger building,” she said. “I think that the people in Shutesbury need a full range of library services and not just what that tiny library could support.”

The library runs up to a dozen programs every week, ranging from a kayak loan program to four different online fitness programs. Supplies that don’t fit in the current library have been stored at Antonellis’ home and personal vehicle.

“Now we can build a home for the library that we already enjoy — all under one roof,” she said.

What’s next?

From here, the town will need to send a certified copy of Tuesday’s vote to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, which will have a contract with the library to sign.

The Shutesbury library was selected to receive the inaugural Small Library Pilot Project grant from the state board. Cell anticipates that the grant will pay between 60% and 65% of the estimated costs of the new 5,490-square-foot library.

A committee consisting of library trustees and community representatives will be formed to help see the project to fruition.

Antonellis said they hope to have an owner’s project manager by early fall, an architect named following that and the design process started hopefully before winter.

The new building will be sited on Leverett Road, a half-mile from where it is now, and situated between the school in one direction and post office in the other, she added.

“It’s a great location and it’s visible from the road. There’s room for community gardens and maybe once we get the library built, even a playground,” said Antonellis. “It’s going to be fabulous.”

The project is still in its early stages, though, Cell said. She expects the earliest the project can break ground is winter of 2024.

“Although we have a lot of work ahead, this is tremendously exciting,” she said. “It’s very gratifying to get to this place as we build a library for the 21st century.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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