NEWS UPDATE

NO STATE GRANT

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 the State grant. 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.  

FACTS NOT SPIN

It is significant that EVERY applicant who applies to the MBLC for a grant is ranked and placed on the MBLC's list for funding. Some are awarded a grant immediately, while others are placed on a wait list for when funds become available. Some applicants drop out of the process if they are unable to raise necessary funds for the project in addition to the grant award. According to the MBLC's data, for the Jones Library to be funded in the years ahead, as much as $67 million in additional State funds would be needed to cover the first 9 libraries on the wait list, which includes the Jones.  One of the MBLC Commissioners noted after the Grant Award announcement, that it could easily take years for the Jones Library project to be funded and that the Town of Amherst needs to work out its local political differences about the Library project to ensure that the process can move forward when funds become available. 

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A NEW GREEN PLAN

Save Our Library views this missed grant award outcome as an opportunity to "hit the reset button" on the Jones Library building project. This is an opportunity for Trustees to take demolition "off the table" for the ADA compliant 1993 brick addition and to work with the community and SOL 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…"   SOL has always maintained that it is only a PREFERENCE of the Library Director and Trustees to locate all enhanced programming under the roof of the Jones Library, which is given as justification for an expansion. In contrast, SOL maintains that any additional space needs could be met through our branch libraries and other Town buildings.  In any case, repairs, ongoing maintenance and accessibility needs at the Jones Library cannot wait for State funding.  SOL suggests that a community dialog take place to develop a creative, environmentally sensitive and financially responsible approach to renovate the Jones Library to address repairs, deferred maintenance and to meet accessibility needs.

 

WHO IS SAVE OUR LIBRARY?

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 EXPANSION. While the Jones needs to be renovated and upgraded, a LARGER building is NOT the answer. The Demolition-Expansion would forever alter the Jones Library's warm, home-like interior that is unique among public libraries. It would require WASTEFULLY demolishing the 1993 brick addition that meets ADA requirements and which taxpayers paid off in 2010.  For this reason, Save Our Library represents the LOYAL OPPOSITION.  

Please share the link to this website (www.saveourlibrary.net) with others interested in the fate of the Jones Library. 

 

WHY A GRASSROOTS EFFORT?

HISTORIC FEATURES UNDER THREAT

The design of the Demolition-Expansion was developed over the last two years with virtually no input from the wider community. SOL members who attended Trustee meetings during the last two years, were shocked to discover early in the process that the design being proposed for an expansion contained no historic preservation elements and required destroying the Kinsey Memorial Library. In those 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 of the Demolition-Expansion, have made concessions to keep some historical features (such as the walnut staircase) they have been unwilling to reconsider keeping the expansion within the existing footprint, even though a much smaller expansion would still be elligible for a State grant.  It is this unnecessary expansion beyond the existing footprint that requires demolishing 40% of the Library, that is at the heart of SOL's opposition. In the past two years, SOL's role has been to enable more 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.

WHAT MOTIVATES SAVE OUR LIBRARY

No matter what you may have heard about Save Our Library, our members support change when it is change that enhances the quality of life in Amherst. The Demolition-Expansion would NOT be a positive change in downtown Amherst. It would not move Amherst forward as a Green Community and because it was designed without wide community input, it does not reflect the changes Amherst residents want in their public library. Rather, the design was developed from a grand "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, and ignoring the role of Amherst's two branch libraries in providing services. 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 by including 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 programs, creating a teen space, upgrading infrastructure, meeting accessibility needs, etc., which can be accomplished by an ARCHITECT-DESIGNED RENOVATION within the existing building footprint. 

PR FIRM HIRED TO SELL THE DEMOLITION-EXPANSION

SOL has found it challenging to have its voice heard above a PR-Marketing firm, hired by the Library Trustees at taxpayer expense, that uses considerable funds and influence to sell this Demolition-Expansion to Amherst taxpayers.  This SOL website represents one of the few places where citizen voices can be heard.  SOL's role is to provide information on its website, brochures, handouts, etc., that the marketing of this Demolition-Expansion does not disclose. For example, that 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 Town Meeting VOTE, was instead an orchestrated sales 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 Marketing Contract.

While the role of the PR/Marketing firm is officially described as capital fundraising for the Library, its role GOES WELL BEYOND FUNDRAISING as evidenced by a politically charged attack toward SOL in a Daily Hampshire Gazette article, on March 22, 2017. Click here to view the Gazette article. In general, the local news coverage is skewed toward those supporting the Demolition-Expansion including allowing unsupported and inflammatory charges about SOL members' motives to be published, while failing to publish letters refuting unsupported charges. Click here to read two unpublished Letters to the Editor.  

 

      

WHY DO WE OPPOSE THE DEMOLITION-EXPANSION?

WASTEFUL DEMOLITION

The Jones Library is a historic treasure that has brought Amherst together as a community for generations. Families in and around Amherst bring 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. While the Jones Library provides excellent services to its patrons, virtually everyone agrees that the Jones Library needs a RENOVATION.  SOL members deeply appreciate the Jones Library's role in the quality of life in Amherst and the commendable service of its staff. What members of SOL oppose is the "flagship" philosophy of a "newer and bigger is better Jones" that would require demolishing nearly half of the Library, including parts of the original 1928 building and the entire 1993 brick addition. At Spring 2017 Town Meeting, Trustees asserted that the 1993 brick addition, just built 24-years ago, was designed to last for only 20 years...an assertion SOL members find ridiculous. The bottom line: SOL opposes wastefully demolishing the well-built brick 1993 Addition (which has a metal roof with a 50+ year lifespan), that Amherst taxpayers just paid off in 2010 (see photo below).  

 

1993 Brick Addition that is ADA compliant (slated for demolition)

TOO COSTLY

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).  Town Meeting would need a 2/3 majority vote to approve borrowing.  It is also likely that the Demolition-Expansion would require increasing Real Estate Taxes by more than 2½%, which would require a Town-wide vote on a Tax Override 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.

  

UN-GREEN UNSUSTAINABLE DESIGN 

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.  Read more at Amherst as a Green Community.

 

OUT OF SCALE AND OUT OF CHARACTER

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) 

 

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE DEMOLITION-EXPANSION?

On January 26th, 2017, the Library Trustees submitted an application to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) for a $13.7 million State construction grant for the Demolition-Expansion of Jones Library.

On May 10th 2017, Spring Town Meeting voted (retroactively, as the grant application had already been submitted) to approve applying for this State grant by a margin of 11 votes (105 yes votes to 94 no votes). 

On July 13th, 2017, the MBLC will announce its decision whether to award a State grant. If the grant is awarded, Trustees must return to Fall Town Meeting for a vote to approve borrowing to fund the Demolition Expansion. It is likely that the Demolition-Expansion would require raising property taxes more than 2½%, so Amherst voters would need to approve a tax override. UPDATE: The grant was NOT awarded to the Jones, which was ranked #18 out of 33 applicants and placed on a wait list for future funding.

  

WHY IS THIS PROPOSED EXPANSION DIFFERENT FROM PAST EXPANSIONS?

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 just this kind of wasteful, 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) 

 

WHAT ARE FURTHER ISSUES WITH THE DEMOLTION-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 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. 

 

 

 

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♦ The DESIGN is problematic beyond unnecessary demolition. Some highlights 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 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. 

 

 

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The Library CANNOT AFFORD TO MAINTAIN ITS CURRENT BUILDING. 

A LARGER building would financially stress resources further in terms of maintanence, 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 has been allowed to deteriorate down to bare wood.

Scraping, priming and repainting would provide basic protection for the historic Jones entrance. 

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♦ 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. Over the last two years, SOL members repeatedly requested a cost estimate for a renovation within the existing footprint, but this request was ignored.   

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♦ An Expansion is NOT based on NEED.  

The Demolition-Expansion is justified by a preference to house all programming under one roof and on PADDED user data.  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.  

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OUT OF CHARACTER with the historic Library and OUT OF SCALE with its historic neighbors.

The design uses an industrial-style, sawtooth roof and would install 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

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Architect's drawing of Rear View of Massive Addition

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

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♦ The Demolition-Expansion would be the END OF the Kinsey Memorial Garden.

No matter what you hear, 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 generic landscaping. The Kinsey Memorial Garden was a generous gift from Carol Pope to the Jones Library dedicated in memory of her late husband, UMass Professor David Chapin Kinsey. A Town gem, the 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 states 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 fragile Strong House), down to a narrow strip of terraced planting, sacrificing the elegant connection between these two historic buildings. 

Further, in 2014, when the design for the Demolition-Expansion was first being developed, Carol Pope, benefactor, creator and designer of the Kinsey Memorial Garden, was asked to no longer oversee the Garden's care. Since that time, the Kinsey Garden has suffered serious NEGLECT. Most recently the Garden's neglect has been evident in the failure to cut down previous year's growth of ornamental grasses early enough to avoid serious damage to rising new growth; to properly prune ornamental trees, leaving unsightly, unhealthy branch stubs; to weed or remove leaves; and to appropriately time mulching, to avoid smothering a variety of ground covers that unified the Garden landscape. For over 15 years, Ms. Pope provided ongoing oversight of the Garden, offering pro-bono design services and annual contributions of plantings as well using thousands of dollars of her own funds to add stone walkways, walls and benches to the Kinsey Garden. Ms. Pope also proposed her help in forming a professional horticultural committee that would donate their time to oversee the Garden, supervise the maintenance, and do much of the more demanding work to provide the best possible care of this botanically sophisticated garden.  

In contrast, Trustees now propose a non-professional "Garden Committee" composed of volunteers to provide ongoing maintenance of the terraced plantings, who would be supervised by Library staff with little or no gardening experience.  


                      Kinsey Garden oasis next to Strong House (Amherst History Museum)  
                                          (Photo Source: The Daily Hampshire Gazette)    

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♦ History of being DISRESPECTFUL OF DONORS. 

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 Trustees toward past donors should make any future donors wary. 

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LARGER QUESTIONS FOR AMHERST RESIDENTS 

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. 

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A CALL TO ACTION: WHAT YOU CAN DO

♦  Please share this website with friends, neighbors, and fellow Jones patrons who might be interested in the fate of the Jones Library.  

♦ If the State grant is awarded in July, 2017, please contact Town Meeting members before Fall Town Meeting and ask them to Vote NO on funding the Jones Library Project. To contact your Town Meeting member, go to 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.  

 

 

 

 

 

Join our GRASSROOTS effort to Renovate the historic Jones Library without demolition! Contact: Michael Burkart at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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

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