Emily Williston library to move to Eastworks while under repair

  • The Emily Williston Memorial Library’s foundation needs an emergency repair, which will force the library operation to move into temporary quarters in the Eastworks building this fall. GAZETTE STAFF/CAITLIN ASHWORTH

  • The Emily Williston Memorial Library is looking into funding options for a new building. GAZETTE STAFF/CAITLIN ASHWORTH

  • The Emily Williston Memorial Library is temporarily moving its operations to Eastworks in mid-September. Library director Nora Blake, shown in this file photo, said, “We have discovered some serious issues with the foundation.”  GAZETTE STAFF/CHRIS LINDAHL

Published: 8/23/2017 8:21:53 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Making space for necessary repairs to its 136-year-old building’s foundation, the Emily Williston Memorial Library is temporarily moving its operations to Eastworks in mid-September.

“We have discovered some serious issues with the foundation,” library director Nora Blake said.

Contractors recently made the discovery as they examined the building to help library officials plan for future maintenance needs, Blake said.

To plan for the eight-week repair, the library’s youth department will close Sept. 1, followed by the entire library on close Saturday, Sept. 16. It will reopen Sept. 18 at the Eastworks Building, 116 Pleasant St. Hours at the temporary site will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

The library will bring a limited collection of books, CDs and DVDs to the temporary location. Internet will be available along with computers, a printer and fax machine. Books can still be dropped off at the return box outside off Park Street.

The Emily Williston library opened to the public in 1881 and has gone through two major renovations since then. One was in 1930 when the basement was renovated for the youth department, and the second was in 1966 with an expansion of the youth department and modernization of the adult section, according to the library’s website.

To fix the building’s foundation, which has been progressively crumbling, crews will dig a trench about 5 or 6 feet deep to waterproof the walls, Blake said.

While that work is going on, the library will also make improvements to the basement such as new floors, upgrading the lighting and restructuring the bathrooms.

The basement level houses the youth and children’s section, and is also an area to hold events. Blake said with the renovation, the area will have a proper circulation desk and a dedicated teen space.

Blake estimates the cost to be around $400,000, which will be funded by the private nonprofit Public Library Association of Easthampton. The renovation will be managed by Five Star Building Corp. of Easthampton.

For the temporary location, Eastworks has donated a 1,500-square-foot space to the library. Previously, the space has been used for events and pop-up businesses.

“Now it’s a pop-up library,” Eastworks owner Will Bundy said.

The temporary space is across from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which works out well, Blake said, because the registry sends people to the library to print out forms.

When the library approached Eastworks for a space, Bundy said he saw an opportunity to make a contribution. He said charging the library rent for the space “didn’t cross our minds.”

Other local businesses are doing their part to help the library. DIY Mobile Box will be donating storage containers for the library during the renovation, and moving trucks will be donated by Big E’s Supermarket and Fleury Lumber Co.

Meanwhile, the library continues to study how to move ahead with a project to replace the building. The library’s five-year strategic plan is due to be submitted to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners in October. Blake has previously said the plan will focus on funding options for a new building.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.

Note:  This story has been updated to clarify that improvements also will be made to the basement as the foundation is repaired.


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