OUR BELOVED JONES LIBRARY IS UNDER THREAT
Save Our Library (SOL) is a group of Library patrons and former Jones Library Trustees who are alarmed that the current Library Trustees' Demolition/Expansion Plan would demolish 40% of the beloved Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Plan would forever destroy the Jones Library's warm, home-like atmosphere. The Plan is based on an unrealistic "wish-list" developed by library staff at the request of the Library Director, that was subsequently scaled down from an improbable 110,000 sq. ft. to 65,000 sq. ft. with almost no community discussion about what kind of services residents want in our beloved public library. The Plan also leaves out the role of our two branch libraries in providing services. The Jones Library is a beloved treasure that has brought Amherst together as a community for generations. Families in and around our Town have brought their children to enjoy the coziness of the Children's Room. Adults come to the Library and enjoy being tucked away to read in the nooks and crannies of this homey space. The Jones Library is unique among public libraries across the country in staying true to its original vision by NOT following the latest fad in library design. The Trustees' Demolition/Expansion Plan with its glass and steel addition is just this kind of wasteful design fad.
Historic Main Entrance to the Jones Library
The Children's Room
The Proposed Children's Room
WHAT IS THE THREAT?
The Demolition/Expansion Plan would:
♦ Total Cost: $49.5 million, which includes $13.9 million in interest over 20 years, assuming a 3.5% interest rate on the debt. Interest costs are omitted in the Trustees' published cost estimates. Even if this project is awarded a state construction grant, it would only cover $11.8 million of this total cost, and would still saddle Amherst taxpayers with a total liability of approximately $37.7 million.
♦ Increase Real Estate Taxes by more than 2½%, requiring a Tax Override vote to pay for this Demolition/Expansion Plan, according to The Town Finance Committee. Also, Town Meeting would need a 2/3 majority vote to approve the borrowing.
♦ Gut many of the original building's historic rooms (with their fireplaces and Philippine mahogany paneling), destroying our unique connection to the literary legacy of Robert Frost (the first Library director, Charles Green was Frost's first serious collector).
♦ Install an industrial-style, sawtooth roof and a clear glass and steel "canopy" over the iconic Main Entrance that will be out of character with the Library and its neighbors, the Strong House and National Bank Building, both also on the State Register of Historic Places, as well as out of character with the rest of Amherst's historic Central Business District.
Architect's Drawing of the Industrial Sawtooth Roof
♦ Demolish the Woodbury Room (large downstairs meeting room), renovated in 2012 at a cost of more than $175,000 from Professor and Mrs. Woodbury's generous bequest of nearly $750,000, the largest donation in dollar terms that the Library had ever received. The Plan provides no increase in book, DVD, or other collections despite expanded space and also provides inadequate facilities for Special Collections.
♦ Demolish the entire 1993 brick addition that aesthetically blends with its historic neighbors and replace it with a glass and steel addition.
1993 addition (slated for demolition) with gambrel roof mirroring the Strong House Museum
(Photo Source: The Hampshire Gazette)
Architect's drawing of west side/rear view of proposed addition
♦ Construct a massive building that aesthetically overwhelms the site, which is out of proportion with the surrounding historic buildings and out of character in the historic district.
Current footprint (with red property line) of Jones Library in relation to neighbors
Proposed footprint dwarfing neighbors and eliminating rare green space
♦ Destroy the Kinsey Memorial Garden, which was a gift to the Jones Library in memory of UMass Professor, David Chapin Kinsey. The Garden, a Town gem, was created in 1999 by a community effort of more than 60 volunteers. The Garden's stone walls, walkways and benches provides a rare green space for contemplation in the heart of downtown Amherst. The Plan would destroy the Garden and reduce the aesthetic sweep of green space shared with the Strong House Museum down to a narrow strip, sacrificing the elegant connection between the two historic buildings.
Kinsey Garden oasis next to Strong House Museum (Photo Source: The Hampshire Gazette)
A CALL TO ACTION: WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you love and value what is unique about the Jones Library with its warm, home-like design and share a vision for preserving this Amherst treasure, please oppose the Trustees' Demolition/Expansion Plan, by doing the following:
♦ Attend a Meet the Candidates forum on Thursday, March 16th at 7:00pm, Amherst Regional Middle School auditorium, to meet the candidates running for 3 Jones Library Trustee positions in the Townwide Election. (Read more on Jones Trustee Candidates page.)
♦ Vote on Tuesday, March 28th in the Townwide Election for Jones Library Trustee candidates, Terry Johnson, Kitty Axleson-Berry and Edwin Wilfert, who have expressed support for Preserving/Renovating The Jones Library. Their voices are needed to balance the perspective of the Jones Library Trustees moving forward. (Read more on Jones Trustee Candidates page.)
♦ Contact your Town Meeting Precinct Representatives before the Annual Town Meeting begins on April 26th and ask them to vote against approval of the Trustee's Demolition/Expansion Plan and against approval for the Trustees to apply for and accept a state grant. To contact your Town Meeting member, on the Town website click on the link to the Town Meeting page (www.amherstma.gov/tm) and select the "Contacting Town Meeting Members" link in the upper left-hand menu.
♦ Talk with your neighbors and fellow Jones Library patrons and tell them about this website. Let them know what is at stake with the Trustees' Demolition/Expansion Plan: the permanent damage of Amherst's historic treasure, The Jones Library, as well as the demise of the Kinsey Memorial Garden. Ask your friends to call their Town Meeting members.
♦ Send a Letter to the Editor at: http://www.gazettenet.com/Opinion/Submit-a-Letter
WHAT KIND OF LIBRARY DO WE WANT?
A Comprehensive Plan for The Jones Library would be designed around a community discussion and would:
♦ Preserve the unique architectural features on the interior and exterior of the Library to remain visually compatible with the surrounding historic buildings. Explore an in-spansion. Examples of an in-spansion could include opening up unused space by adding an ADA compliant elevator and/or adding a second story over the Adult Fiction Room.
♦ Reflect Amherst's values of repurposing and sustainable design by keeping the addition from the 1993 expansion whose brick exterior and gambrel roof beautifully blends with its historic neighbors.
♦ Upgrade the infrastructure (heating,ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, elevators, etc.) and reconfigure the interior space to make better use of the space already available and make it fully accessible. For example, replace the leaking atrium with clerestory windows that would allow for the possible installation of solar panels on the roof.
♦ Explore the needs of our two Branch Libraries for renovation and increased staff funding as an integral part of our Library System, recognizing that our branch libraries can make an important contribution to decreasing downtown traffic and improving accessibility for all.
♦ Preserve the beloved Kinsey Memorial Garden on the Library grounds as a rare and botanically diverse green space in downtown Amherst (Read more on the Kinsey Garden page).
♦ Honor the unique literary and arts history that took place in the original 1928 Library, by preserving and better using those special rooms. (Read more on The Jones Library History page.)
Robert Frost Room (now Goodwin Room) on third floor (slated to become a Staff Lounge)