Fact Check: This Week at the Jones Library September 20–26

Architects rendering of the proposed renovated Jones Library. Feingold Alexander Architects. Photo: Jones Library

Videri Quam Esse
(To Seem To Be Rather Than To Be)

The Jones Library weekly email newsletter continues its column about the proposed library demolition/expansion project. Residents can sign up for this newsletter by following the link https://www.joneslibrary.org/list.aspx and going to “News Flash – Jones Library News.”

I will fact check this column for the Indy. Statements from the Jones are quoted from their newsletter below in italics.

Jones Building Project Update
Inside the Jones Library
Episode III: The Original Third Floor

“Most of us have never come up here…The Goodwin Room is used a couple hundred times per year…There are only 3 bathrooms in the building…There are six stairwells; we don’t know where this one goes.”  ~  Kent Faerber

It is NOT TRUE that the Goodwin Room is used hundreds of times a year as Faerber states in this short video clip from a January 2020 library tour. This room is locked most of the time. It is only used for a few library-sponsored public events, such as the monthly Jubilat Jones Poetry Series, and for 4-6 Trustee meetings a month. Before COVID, the library’s website calendar listed the Goodwin Room usage by staff, and it was infrequent. 

It is TRUE that there are only three public bathrooms; there is also a staff bathroom.

It is TRUE that there are six stairwells, all of which are clearly labelled. 

As you can see from the short video, the five smaller rooms are currently filled with mounds of furniture from years past, as well as stacks of documents. There are also many empty shelves. Most of the rooms are unkempt and their condition does not garner trust in the library’s operation and maintenance. 

The third floor could be an ideal ESL department, with the Goodwin Room as a main classroom and materials area, and the five rooms smaller rooms as additional tutoring spaces, as I suggested in my last Fact Check.

Library Chats:  August 20, 2020 
(continued from the Indy, September 18)

 “We rehabilitated our 100-year-old Carnegie library, plus we did an addition.  We went from 19,800 s.f. to 38,000 s.f. We are now fully handicapped accessible.  We have increased our computer capacity from 19 to 50.  We have a dedicated learning lab for ESOL students.  We have our first ever dedicated Young Adult department for the Town.  We have a Program Room dedicated to children.  We have a wonderful piece of technology, the 24/7 automated materials handling system, so we have a faster turn-around for materials that come in.  We also have check-out kiosks that allow us to spend more time with our patrons and provide excellent customer service.” 
— Toni Golinsky-Foisy, Director, West Springfield Public Library 

1) It is MISLEADING to compare the West Springfield Library with the Jones. The Jones already offers many of the services cited above, and Amherst does not need a demolition/expansion project to offer the other programs mentioned. The Trustees have never hired a professional space consultant to analyze how the current library could be better utilized without demolishing the 17,800 sq. ft. 1993 addition and without an expansion. 

Let’s remember that our town already has many other community organizations which also provide similar activities for all ages, including the Amherst Boys and Girls Club, Town of Amherst Leisure Services, the Senior Center, the Literacy Center, and the Center for New Americans, to mention a few. Why doesn’t the Jones coordinate with existing services and share existing spaces in town? 

The stellar Jones Library staff provides excellent public service without an automated materials handling system. Does the Library need this machinery with a $400,000 price tag and an expensive yearly maintenance contract? 

2) An important data point is MISSING. 

One way that is used to compare libraries is square footage per capita of population. 

The West Springfield Library after its expansion to 36,700 sq.ft. has 1.29 sq. ft. per capita for its 28,932 population. 

The current Jones Library, at 48,000 sq. ft., already has 2.53 sq. ft. per capita for our “normalized” Amherst population of 18,953. 

If the Jones expands to 65,000 sq. ft., that would mean 3.42 sq. ft. per capita. Why is the building proposal so large? The grant application states that the plans are designed for a user population of 51,000. We all know that most of our university and college populations use their own libraries.

The Trustees have yet to make the case that that demolition and expansion is the way to proceed.

Library Chat, August 20, 2020

City, TownCensus PopulationOriginal/Final Sq. ft. Per Capita Sq. ft. After ConstructionMBLC GrantTotal Cost w/o Debt
Amherst Jones Library18,593 Normalized
37,819 *Census
48,000 to 65,000 3.43$13.8 ** million$35.8 million
West Springfield28,39219,000 to 36,7001.29$6.2$16.2
South Hadley17,8068,000 to 23,0001.29$4.8$7.8
Athol11,7538,000 to 21,0001.79$4.6$8.6
Local Libraries Discussed (Chart Developed by Terry S. Johnson)

* The 2010 Census shows Amherst has 37,819 residents including university and college students. The Jones Library demolition/ expansion project was based upon a 51,100 user population. In the recently rejected application from the Library for a $1,000,000 Community Preservation Act grant, the Library admitted that the “normalized” Amherst population is 18,593. 

** The Jones received the largest grant in the 2016–2017 state application round. No doubt demolishing the entire 1993 addition at 17,800 sq. ft., then rebuilding it and adding 17,000 more sq. ft. (encompassing 35,000 sq. ft. of new construction) has increased the expense.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.