A library is more than its building or its stacks of books and reading materials. Among many other benefits, a strong public library supports and nurtures literacy and a love of learning among all children in a community, from toddlers to teens. Our Jones Library is limited in its ability to fully serve our children and families in this way because its building is in desperate need of renovation and repair. The Jones Library building project provides Amherst the opportunity to change that if we choose to vote yes on November 2.
The choice is not between the Jones Library or the elementary school building: we need both. Funding the Jones Library building project will not impact our ability to fund the school building project–each project is supported by its own significant grant funding from the state. The choice in front of voters is about what sort of library and what sort of community we want.
The Jones Library building project will provide a safe, child-centered space where young children can explore a wide variety of books and media, engage in creative play, or hear stories read aloud. A space that supports their literacy development and joy in learning — and can help prepare them for school. A revitalized and expanded Jones will provide a safe and inspiring space for youth book groups and creative activities to support children as they grow and learn, augmenting their learning in school. A revitalized and expanded Jones will provide older kids and teens an inclusive and safe space of their own with free internet for group work and quiet reading or studying, supporting them through middle and high school.
The choice we face on November 2 is not about how much money we will invest in the Jones Library building. Multiple studies have made it clear that we will need to pay the same amount or more to simply repair the Jones Library building as we would for the proposed expansion and renovation, thanks to the state grant and private fundraising in support of the project. And, multiple comprehensive analyses and reports from the town show that we have the financial capacity to fund the town’s portion of the costs for both the Jones Library and the elementary school building projects.
So, the decision we face on November 2 isn’t about money; it’s about what sort of community we want. The decision on November 2 isn’t either library or school. We can, and must, choose both.
A vote to support the Jones Library building project is a vote in favor of the transformational impact that literacy and learning have on the lives of all our community members; it is a vote to support the children and families in our community.
Allison McDonald is a resident of Amherst. She notes that this letter expresses her personal opinions and not those of the school committee of which she is a member.