SAVE OUR LIBRARY (SOL)
Save Our Library (SOL) was formed by a group of patrons of Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts, who support its renovation and needed improvements within the building's existing footprint. SOL is committed to preserving the historically unique rooms and facade of the Library's three-story 1928 Colonial Revival building and the Jones Library's Kinsey Memorial Garden. In 1975, the Jones Library was included on the state's Inventory of Historic and Archaelogical Assets of the Commonwealth. In 1991, its national significance was documented by its addition to both the State and National Registers of Historic Places and as part of the historic Amherst Central Business District.
The Trustees of the Jones Library are seeking a State grant to demolish the 40% of the Library that was built in 1993. This includes demolishing the Woodbury (large meeting) Room, renovated in 2012, at a cost of more than $175,000. It will also include "selective demolition of the original structure completed in 1928..." The proposed project will gut most of the 3-story original building's historic rooms, with their lovely fireplaces and the pine and Philippine mahogany paneling. The plan will put an auatomated book sorter in the business office, a lovely room that originally was the Lucius Boltwood Local History Room. It will install a flat, oblong, clear glass and steel "canopy" over the iconic, Connecticut Valley main doorway, with steel supports anchored into the stone. The proposed 19th century industrial sawtooth roof will be out of character with its next door neighbors on Amity Street, the Strong House and National Bank Building, both also on the State Register, and with the rest of the downtown historic district.
WHAT KIND OF LIBRARY DOES AMHERST WANT
As we began a new century, concern grew in the library world that the digital age would make libraries obsolete. There was concern that libraries would be seen as unnecessary and budgets would be cut. Consequently, libraries have gone all out to serve their patrons in ways that would have been unheard of in the previous century.
A New York Times online article (7/4/16) reports that New York's libraries offer job counseling, classes in knitting and sewing, help to the homeless, outreach to prisons and the home-bound, activities for babies-to-teens, and career training courses. Times readers commented however, that these new features in the libraries had their drawbacks. Libraries, they complained, were now noisy. It was hard to find a quiet spot to read or do research.
Does Amherst want the Jones Library to follow this trend? Amherst residents are fortunate to have the Bangs Community Center, Leisure Services, the Boys and Girls Club, the Survival Center, Amherst Community Connection, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters among its community resources. SOL believes there is a need for an informed public discussion about the historic treasure that is the Jones Library. The question about what library services Amherst residents want and need, and what services the Jones Library should provide, must be answered before taxpayers are asked to assume a debt of more than $21 million, plus more than $12 million in interest. The proposed plan to build a new addition of 36,150 square feet will provide no increase in the book, DVD, etc. collections, and no additional public meeting rooms. The plan will destroy nearly all of the beloved Kinsey Memorial Garden behind the Library, losing rare green space in downtown Amherst.