Blog entries reflect the view of each author and do not necessarily reflect the view of all Save Our Library group members. 

 

ACCESSIBILITY NEED NOT BE A FAIRYTALE

By Christina Platt, November 5, 2017

Once upon a time --1893 actually -- a charming little library was born smack in the center of North Amherst, Massachusetts. 

Townspeople oohed and aahed over her fetching clapboard Queen Anne-style beauty and decided to call her NAL, short for North Amherst Library.   

Fortunately, NAL had an optimistic nature since, for over a century, she had a difficult life. Although she had a cozy fireplace, her only bathroom and many books were in the gloomy basement, down a flight stairs too dangerous for townspeople to use.  Worst of all, not everyone who loved the little library could come in to browse and borrow books because NAL's front door was at the top of seven severe steps!

When NAL was 97, something magical happened.  In a place far, far away, it was decreed that people in wheelchairs or on crutches or in some other ways challenged, could no longer be kept out of NAL by the seven severe steps.  

NAL was so excited! Soon her older sibling, Amherst Town Hall, was fixed so that everyone who wanted to could visit (during certain hours, of course).

When NAL was 117, her stone foundation was reinforced, her basement and main floor were insulated and she got a glorious coat of paint.

But alas, still not everyone could come in to browse and borrow.  NAL was becoming sadder and sadder.

Finally, when NAL was 124, the people who loved her declared "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!"  It had been 27 years since the decree had come from far, far away and it was sooo past time to do something about those seven severe steps. 

Friends of NAL asked all their friends and neighbors for help.  Some belonged to a powerful Council of Wizards called Town Meeting.

When Town Meeting heard how long NAL had been waiting, the wizards pushed their magical buttons and Shazam! a new entrance with no steps at all appeared behind NAL, near her parking lot.  Now everyone could come inside!  Once in, a cunning little elevator whisked them past a spiffy new bathroom open to all in the basement, up to a delightful meeting room in the old attic.

Did the seven severe steps melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West?  No -- but nobody cared.  They were too busy browsing and borrowing from NAL anytime they wanted (during certain hours, of course).

 

STEWARDSHIP OF THE JONES LIBRARY

By Peggy Matthews-Nilsen, October 26, 2017

I joined the Save Our Library group more than a year ago, after learning that the Jones Library Trustees were planning an expansion with a design that required tearing down an addition built in 1993 and destroying the Kinsey Memorial Garden behind the Library.  After taking a walk around the perimeter of the Jones Library, I was shocked at the wastefulness of demolishing a 24-year-old brick building that I later learned is ADA compliant, along with its metal roof that has a long lifespan. 

When I explored the Trustees’ design further, I found the rationale for an expansion was not based on need, but only on a preference to locate more programs under the single roof of the Jones building. There was in fact no consideration given to the impact of a larger building to the already problematic parking situation downtown, no reasoned thought to dispersing some of the programming to branch libraries, no concern for destroying a garden providing rare green space in downtown and no concern about the environmental impact of creating tons of demolition debris. 

When I learned that the total cost of this design was nearly $50 million, I was convinced that the expansion was unnecessary, wasteful and counter to good stewardship in a town that already had higher taxes when compared to most other towns.  Even the upscale town of Concord has a lower tax rate than Amherst.

Patrons love the Jones Library and yet virtually everyone agrees that the Library building desperately needs renovating. No one disputes that the leaking atrium needs to be replaced. Sadly, under the stewardship of the current Jones Library Trustees, the interior has become dirty, disorganized and exceedingly rundown.  The carpets are heavily soiled, the priceless walnut staircase at the front entrance needs to be cleaned and polished, paint is peeling from ceilings, and interior space is poorly used. 

The Library Director takes her mandate from the Trustees and, under their guidance, she has publicly stated that a policy of neglect of the building will continue for the next 3-5 years while Trustees wait for the State to appropriate funds for the expansion. Amherst citizens will also need to vote for a tax override for an expansion to happen. In the meantime, the carpets will continue to be soiled, the woodwork will continue to be grimy, paint on the ceilings will continue to peel off in sheets and rooms that could be used by the public will simply be used to store boxes.  

Years of neglect take a toll on an historic building but the answer is simpler than tearing down 40% of the building.  Clean it. Repair it. Organize it. Maintain it. A little TLC can go a long way.

On October 10, 2017, it was reported to Trustees that the peeling paint at the front entrance of the Library is lead-based paint.  I had previously criticized the peeling paint and bare wood on the front entrance of the Jones as clear evidence that the historic library was suffering egregious neglect. This new fact of the peeling paint being lead-based, raised new concern about public safety as well.  The Library Director recently stated that the peeling lead-based paint will be remedied “before the snow flies.” That’s a good start. 

However, this situation with the Library entrance is only a small part of the ongoing neglect at the Jones Library that represents a failure of the Trustees’ stewardship.  It’s time to elect new Jones Library Trustees who are committed to regular ongoing maintenance of our historic public library as well as fiscal responsibility for Amherst taxpayers.    

 

           Peeling Lead-Based Paint at the Main Entrance to the Historic Jones Library