Save Our Library (SOL) is a grassroots group in Amherst, Massachusetts composed of Jones Library patrons, former Jones Library Trustees and former Trustee Presidents who oppose the current Jones Library Trustees' plan to demolish 40% of the Jones Library for an unnecessary Demolition-Expansion. While most everyone agrees the Jones Library needs to be renovated and upgraded, many believe a LARGER library building is NOT the answer. The Demolition-Expansion would forever alter the Jones Library's warm, home-like interior that makes it unique among public libraries across the country. The proposed expansion would WASTEFULLY demolish a 1993 brick addition that meets Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and that taxpayers paid off in 2010.  



The design of the Demolition-Expansion was developed over a two-year period with virtually no input from the wider community. SOL members who attended Library Trustee meetings early in the process were shocked to discover that the design being discussed for an expansion, contained NO historic preservation elements and required destroying the Kinsey Memorial Garden, located behind the library building. In these early Trustee meetings, SOL members protested that historic features such as the walnut staircase near the Library entrance would be demolished. While Trustees and the architects chosen to design the the Demolition-Expansion have since made concessions to keep some historical features (such as the walnut staircase), they have been unwilling to reconsider keeping a renovation and expansion within the existing footprint, even though a smaller expansion would still be eligible for a State grant.

It is this unnecessary expansion beyond the existing footprint that requires demolishing 40% of the Jones Library and destroying the Kinsey Memorial Garden, that is at the heart of SOL's opposition. To date, SOL's role has been to enable citizen voices to be heard in opposition to the Demolition-Expansion as part of the democratic process in deciding the fate of Amherst's historic Jones Library.



SOL members support change when change enhances the quality of life in Amherst. We believe the Demolition-Expansion of the Jones would NOT be a positive change in downtown Amherst. It would not move Amherst forward as a Green Community with the unnecessary demolition of an ADA compliant brick addition, and because it was designed without wide community input, the proposed Demolition-Expansion does not reflect changes Amherst residents want in their public library.

Rather, the design was developed from a "wish-list" created at the request of the Library Director, based upon a preference to locate all enhanced programming under one roof, with little regard for the historic features of the Jones. The design also ignores the role of Amherst's two branch libraries in providing services to the community.

This wish-list approach is the motivation behind the Demolition-Expansion. As originally envisioned it would have expanded the building footprint from the current 48,000 square feet (SF) to a jaw-dropping 110,000 SF.  The design was subsequently "scaled back" to 65,000 SF.  The need for an expansion has been justified by this preference and the use of padded user data that included over 20,000 resident college students who do NOT use the Jones Library, but instead, use their college libraries.  

SOL supports the goals of enhancing library programs, creating a teen space, upgrading infrastructure, meeting accessibility needs, etc., but we believe these changes can be accomplished by an ARCHITECT-DESIGNED RENOVATION within the existing building footprint. 



On July 13, 2017, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) awarded $67 million in grants to 9 library applicants. All 9 libraries that were awarded grants by the MBLC were LEED Certified projects that also received Green Library incentive funds in addition to State grant funds. The Jones Library was NOT awarded a construction grant for the Trustees' $49.5 million Demolition-Expansion and was instead, ranked at #18 among 33 applicants, which placed the Jones Library at #9 on a wait list for future funding.  

As of December 2018, the Jones Library is #4 on the MBLC wait list.  However, as reported in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on December 20th, 2018, the MBLC reviewed the proposed design and determined that the design must be reconfigured to relocate a large meeting room from the first floor to the lower level to be eligible for MBLC grant funds. 

Click here to read Gazette article, New Designs for Jones Library Project in Works, 12/20/18.



In light of the December 2018 announcement by Library Trustees that the MBLC will require a redesign of the proposed Jones Library building project, Amherst now has a new opportunity to "hit the reset button" on the Demolition-Expansion and instead, develop a green plan. This is an opportunity for Library Trustees to take demolition "off the table" for the ADA compliant 1993 brick addition and work with the community on an environmentally sustainable approach to renovate and upgrade the Jones Library within the existing footprint.  

An expansion is NOT a requirement for a State grant. The MBLC states that "A Construction Project may either be a project to construct a new facility, an addition/renovation to an existing building that may or may not add space, but does involve a significant reorganization of functional space…" (Quote from MBLC agenda "Construction Projects Application Round 2016-17, Waiting List, July 13, 2017.)  SOL has always maintained that an expansion is only a PREFERENCE of the Library Director and Trustees to locate all enhanced programming under the roof of the Jones Library. This is NOT a NEEDS-BASED expansion. Any additional space needed could be met through reorganization of the Jones interior and better use of our branch libraries and other Town buildings in providing library services.  

Repairs, basic maintenance and addressing accessibility issues at the Jones Library need not wait for State funding.  A real community dialog could develop a creative, environmentally sensitive and financially responsible approach to renovate and upgrade the Jones Library. However, Community Sessions proposed by Library Trustees that would not allow the SIZE of the project to be open for community-wide consideration, make these proposed sessions nothing more than "window dressing." 

It remains to be seen if Amherst Town Council will vote to approve the required borrowing to fund this extravagant, un-green and unnecessary Demolition-Expansion. If a tax override is needed, it also remains to be seen if taxpayers will vote to accept an increase property taxes. Instead of waiting for State funds to become available, Amherst could instead, "think outside the box" by possibly using the Western Builders Repair List along with Town revenue and other alternative funding sources to renovate "within the box" of the existing building footprint. This scaled back approach to renovating could begin quickly, would not cost taxpayers $49 million, would avoid unnecessary demolition and allow Amherst to create a green, sustainable design that reflects the uniqueness of our Jones Library.  

"The greenest building is the one that's already built." ~  Carl Elefante




In the last few years, SOL has found it challenging for its voice to be heard above the PR-Marketing firm hired by the Library Trustees at taxpayer expense, that has used considerable funds and influence to market the Demolition-Expansion to Amherst taxpayers. SOL's intent on this website is to provide information that the marketing of the Demolition-Expansion does not disclose. For example, the REAL COST of the project for taxpayers is $49 million, which includes $13.4 million in interest and this design contains NO Green Energy features. 

What should have been a community-wide conversation leading up to the May 10th, 2017 Town Meeting VOTE, was instead a marketing campaign by the PR/Marketing firm, Financial Development Agency, Inc. (FDA), headed by Matt Blumenfeld, and financed by a $36,000 contract with the Library (12/15/16 - 6/30/17)

Click here to view the FDA Marketing Contract with Jones Trustees.



Pursuing a "flagship" approach of "new and bigger is better" is counter to the values of repurposing and reusing that are cornerstones of SUSTAINABILITY and GREEN DESIGN. The unnecessary and wasteful demolition of 40% of the Jones Library building, (including the entire 1993 Addition and parts of the original 1928 building), would create more than 1,660+ TONS (or 207+ dumpster loads) of demolition debris. Demolition is a major contributor to climate change. In addition, the loss of mature trees in the Kinsey Memorial Garden on the Library grounds, and the lack of green energy features in the building design makes the Demolition-Expansion UN-GREEN and UNSUSTAINABLE. The Trustees' Demolition-Expansion design will not qualify for even the lowest level of LEED certification and includes no solar panels. Amherst has achieved Green Community status, but environmentally, this expansion would move Amherst in the wrong direction.

Click here to read Amherst as a Green Community. 

At Spring 2017 Town Meeting, Trustees asserted that the 1993 brick addition, built 24-years ago, (with a metal roof that has a 50+ year lifespan) was designed to last for only 20 years...an assertion many found nonsensical. See photo below.  

1993 brick addition that is ADA compliant, now slated for demolition.


The Demolition-Expansion is extravagantly costly at $49 MILLION in total costs. This figure includes $13.4 million in interest over 25 years, which is factored into payments on the debt. These interest costs are not included in the Trustees' cost estimates. Even subtracting a potential State construction grant of $13.7 million and potential gifts and other funding sources of $6 million, this Demolition-Expansion would still saddle Amherst taxpayers with at least $29.5 million in payments (nearly twice the Trustees' publicly quoted $16 million). In contrast, a Renovation within the existing building footprint, would be a far more cost effective way to upgrade the Jones Library, enhance services and accessibility and keep Amherst affordable for everyone.



The proposed design of the Demolition-Expansion would be out-of-scale with its neighbors and on the site and out of character in Amherst's historic district.  This proposed expansion is based on a "new and bigger is better" philosophy that is in sharp contrast to the sustainable practice of preserving and renovating historic buildings. Downtown Amherst is currently being impacted by new 5-story buildings springing up in our historic district that are changing the character of our small historic college town. The Trustees' Demolition-Expansion proposed for the Jones Library is the latest example of this philosophy in our town.  In contrast, the 1993 brick addition, harmonizes in both scale and character in Amherst's historic district (see photo below). 


      Rear View of 1993 Brick Addition with gambrel roof mirroring the Strong House (Amherst History Museum) in background (Photo: The Daily Hampshire Gazette) 



The Jones Library was built in 1928.  An expansion took place in the 1970s that was demolished 20 years later in the 1993 expansion. Now, 24 years later, the current Trustees seek to demolish the 1993 expansion.  However, the difference is that Trustees in the 1993 expansion stayed true to the original vision of a home-like Library by NOT following the latest fad in library design. In contrast, the currently proposed Demolition-Expansion with its glass and steel addition is a costly design FAD.

Historic Main Entrance to the Jones Library

   The Children's Room (created in the 1993 expansion)

The Children's Room (proposed in the Demolition-Expansion) 



The design is a DONE DEAL in terms of demolishing the brick 1993 addition.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) grant regulations state "The project will be completed as described in the application and approved by the MBLC."  However,  regulations allow Trustees to work with the MBLC to develop and submit a smaller design that would stay within the building footprint.  Trustees continue to be unwilling to rethink the expanded footprint that would require environmentally unsound demolition of the brick 1993 addition and the destruction of the Kinsey Memorial Garden.  

In the months leading up to the Town Meeting vote in May 2017, Trustees assured TM members that the "preliminary design" submitted to the MBLC in January 2017, could be significantly altered and promised inclusive public input into changes to the design, such as a second elevator, LEED Certification, incorporating Net-Zero elements, and the resolution of all historic preservation issues. However, instead of rethinking the demolition, Trustees now plan to host "community input" meetings to focus on MINOR alterations to the flawed design. 


Highlighted Problems of the  DESIGN include:

1) $400,000 BOOK-SORTING MACHINE would be located in a Historic Room by the FRONT entrance, despite noise created by the machine and no increase in books for the Library. No Town our size has one.

2) ONLY ONE ELEVATOR with several stairs on the 2nd floor that would remain as a barrier to patrons with accessiblity issues. 

3) INAPPROPRIATE SPACE for Teens (vaulted ceiling that would carry noise); Special Collections (dispersed to several areas in basement making it nearly impossible for staff to monitor its valuable contents with no new staff hired); Burnett Art Gallery relegated to basement. Unnecessary square footage added throughout.

4) LOSS OF KINSEY MEMORIAL GARDEN and TREES to demolition and building encroachment, so that window views would be of terraced plantings backing up to the CVS parking lot dumpsters. Extent of demolition would destroy its mature trees. No acknowledgement of environmental impact of demolition.

5) NO GREEN ENERGY FEATURES.  NO LEED Certification. NO Solar. Definitely no Net-Zero. 





A LARGER building would further financially stress resources in terms of maintenance, heating and cooling costs. In recent years, BASIC MAINTENANCE of the Jones has been severely NEGLECTED, with many rooms in the Library dirty and disorganized. A highly visible example, the door trim around the historic Jones main entrance was allowed to deteriorate down to bare wood. After several years of neglect, the entrance doorway was finally repaired and repainted in early 2018.

Basic maintenance would have provided protection for the Jones entrance. 


Trustees' Alternative to Expansion is a FALSE CHOICE.

At 2017 Spring Town Meeting, Trustees presented an estimate for a deferred maintenance repair list as the ONLY ALTERNATIVE to the demolition-expansion. An architect-designed RENOVATION within the existing footprint is the REAL ALTERNATIVE.  For two years, SOL members repeatedly requested a cost estimate for a renovation within the existing footprint, but this request was ignored.   


An Expansion is Not Need-Based 

The Demolition-Expansion is based on a preference to house all programming under one roof and on PADDED user data. This is a preference NOT a need. The Jones Library's "service population" is listed as 51,000, though the Library only lists 19,000 Library card holders. The 51,000 figure is padded with over 20,000 resident college students who use their campus libraries and do not use the Jones Library.  



The design of the Demolition-Expansion uses an industrial-style, sawtooth roof and a clear glass and steel "canopy" over the iconic Main Entrance. These design features would be out of character with the Amherst History Museum and National Bank Building, both also on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, as well as with the rest of Amherst's historic district. These two historic designations of the Jones Library on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, were not acknowledged on the grant application (those two boxes were unchecked), so it is questionable if the Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) has adequate information to protect the historic features of the Jones Library.

Architect's Drawing of West View of the Industrial-Style Sawtooth Roof on Massive Addition


Architect's drawing of Rear View of Massive Addition


              Current footprint of Jones in comparison to neighbors (red = property line)
                  Expansion would dwarf historic neighbors and destroy The Kinsey Garden

The Demolition-Expansion destroys the Kinsey Memorial Garden

The mature trees in the Kinsey Garden (gifted to the Jones Library in 1999) would not survive the massive demolition and would be replaced by terraced plantings and landscaping. The Kinsey Memorial Garden was a generous gift to the Jones Library from Amherst resident, Carol Pope in memory of her late husband, UMass Professor David Chapin Kinsey. A Town gem, the Kinsey Memorial Garden was installed by a community effort of more than 60 volunteers. The Garden's mature trees, ornamental shrubs, diverse plantings, stone walls, walkways and benches, providing a rare contemplative space in the heart of downtown Amherst, would be LOST to demolition and building encroachment. 

Marketing SPIN declares that the Kinsey Memorial Garden would remain, but even a cursory glance at the scale of the proposed demolition, makes it clear this would NOT be possible. The design would also reduce the aesthetic sweep of green space between the Jones Library and its neighbor, the Amherst History Museum (located in the 1750's Strong House), down to a narrow strip of terraced planting, sacrificing the elegant connection between these two historic buildings. 

                      Kinsey Garden oasis next to Strong House (Amherst History Museum) 



Gifts and investments made to the Library in recent years by donors and Town residents hoping to make a lasting contribution to their community, have been treated cavalierly by Trustees.

1) Woodbury Room: Professor and Mrs. Woodbury made the largest donation in the Library's history, nearly $750,000. In 2012, Jones Trustees used $175,000 of the Woodbury funds to renovate and upgrade technology in the large downstairs meeting room, naming it the Woodbury Room in the donors' honor. The demolition-expansion would demolish the Woodbury Room and in its place leave a concrete SLAB. Further, Trustees plan to use $400,000 of the remaining Woodbury funds to demolish the very same Woodbury Room and rebuild a larger 200-seat version.  The Woodburys have no living heirs, so there is no one to protest how those funds would be WASTED.  

2) Kinsey Memorial Garden: In 1999, Carol Pope made a gift of the Kinsey Memorial Garden to the Jones Library by using donations made in honor of her late husband and adding thousands of her own dollars over the years to enhance the Garden with diverse plantings, stone walkways, stone walls and stone benches. Under the Trustees' Demolition-Expansion the Kinsey Memorial Garden would be destroyed. No matter what you hear as Marketing SPIN, the mature trees in the Garden would not survive the extensive demolition and building encroachment. Trustees propose replacing The Kinsey Memorial Garden with terraced plantings backing up to the CVS parking lot. 

3) 1993 Addition: The well-built brick addition erected in 1993 at a cost of $5 million was paid off with taxpayer funds in 2010.  Trustees now assert the 1993 brick addition was built to last only 20 years to justify it being totally demolished.

4) Bierstadt Painting: A painting donated to the Library from the estate of William Burnett in 1926, was sold in 1989 for $2.6 million and used to help fund the 1993 expansion that is NOW slated for demolition less than 25 years later.  Further, the Burnett Art Gallery, named after its generous benefactor would be relegated to a basement location in the Demolition-Expansion.

This pattern of disregard by Library Trustees toward past donors should make any future donors wary. 



Amherst residents need to ask who and what is motivating the "Flagship, bigger is better" philosophy and ask themselves what kind of public library they want, need and can afford. The answers to these questions will determine whether our small historic college town will retain some of its charm or whether it will continue to move toward resembling a generic suburban office park. In the end, projects like the Demolition-Expansion that are largely financed by taxpayer dollars, will set the tone for how development decisions are made within our historic district.

If the Demolition-Expansion of the Jones Library goes forward, we risk losing the historical character that makes Amherst unique. Patrons entering the Jones with this design would not be able to tell if they were in a library in Holyoke, Chicopee, Worcester or any other library in the country that has followed a similar design fad.  Amherst residents deserve to know what is at stake with this proposed project and to have their VOICE in the decision, not just the voice of developers, the PR/Marketing firm and those who stand to gain financially from any changes going forward. 



♦  Share this website with friends, neighbors, and fellow Jones patrons interested in the fate of the Jones Library.  

♦ Submit a Letter to the Editor (300 word limit) at: http://www.gazettenet.com/Opinion/Submit-a-Letter 

Contact the Town Manager, Paul Bockelman (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), and Amherst's new Town Council and let them know you want Amherst's historic Jones Library to have an architect-designed renovation within the existing building footprint.