Whately library completes accessibility upgrades

  • The S. White Dickinson Memorial Library at 202 Chestnut Plain Road in Whately. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • S. White Dickinson Memorial Library Trustee Bob Smith tests out the new lift installed in the 72-year-old Whately library, which brings it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • The S. White Dickinson Memorial Library’s bathrooms have been converted to all-gender restrooms. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • The new lift installed in the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library in Whately. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2022 7:04:48 PM
Modified: 6/30/2022 7:02:13 PM

WHATELY — Extensive accessibility improvements at the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library are now complete as the library looks to welcome all residents of Whately back inside its doors.

Built in 1950, the 72-year-old, two-floor library lacked a lift, which forced patrons to go down a tight stairway to use the bathrooms or the Robert Duda Community Room. Beginning in April, the library began installing a lift — which is now fully functional — in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, the bathrooms were converted to all-gender restrooms. Both projects were funded with Community Preservation Act money, along with money left by Duda.

“It’s been on the minds of the board of trustees … for at least five or six years,” said Library Trustee Bob Smith. “It really was not compliant, so it was important. … We’re very happy and we’ll be pleased to welcome (residents) back.”

Fellow Trustee Bob Klinger said the goal was to fulfill the library’s commitment to “serve the community,” which it was only partially fulfilling.

“We needed to update, improve the accessibility for all members of the community,” Klinger said, noting that fire alarms and smoke detectors are also being updated. “We’re trying to bring everything up.”

The lift was designed by Jones Whitsett Architects of Greenfield and constructed by Diversified Construction in Amherst, with Klinger and Smith adding they were happy to work with local businesses.

Considering the age of the building, they were concerned about potentially ruining its character, but the lift was designed to blend in with the 1950s design. Both men gave a lot of credit to fellow Trustee Jim Ross, who was “instrumental” in pushing for the building improvements.

“This is a beautiful building and we wanted to preserve the beauty of it” Smith said.

“It was about as seamless as could be,” Klinger added. “We’re very happy with how everything turned out.”

With events getting ready to return to the interior of the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library — much of its programming, including 250th anniversary celebration events have been held outdoors — Smith said the next steps are to “take a look at the future” of the library and what that means for Whately.

“It’s not just about books,” Smith said. “We want it to be a hub in the center of Whately for community events.”

The library, located at 202 Chestnut Plain Road, is open on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

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