Letter: There Are Better Ways To Improve Our Libraries Than The Proposed Jones Expansion

Mobile Library, Grandview Heigjhts, OH. Photo: flckr.com

On November 2 we can start over smart by rejecting the borrowing for the Jones Library building project which raises so many unexamined problems and unanswered questions. 

Numbers are important. One significant problem, in our troubled climate emergency, is destruction of the entire 1993 addition of 17,800 square feet, out of the present total library area of 48,000 square feet. This amounts to 3,320,000 pounds of debris hauled away in about 400 truck trips to a landfill (where?) at a cost not yet added to the $36.3 million price-tag. 

As Carl Elefante, sustainability architect, says: “The greenest building is the one that is already built.” Writers supporting the Jones borrowing laud the “expansion and renovation” but never note this destruction of almost 40% of the building. Of the 35,800 square feet of planned new construction, half (17,800 square feet) is therefore replacement, and the other half is the only true expansion. 

When the costly addition was completed in 1993, civic leadership admired and applauded. Apparently, what was yesterday’s gleaming gem is today’s worthless glass shard. Twenty-five years hence will another band of planners, trustees, architects, developers, and consultants inform the community that the library is just not good enough, so it’s time to get out the wrecking ball again? Will the claim of 2021 by a project architect be repeated: that about 25 years is an average life-span? Well then, it’s way past time to pull down Chartres Cathedral, the Alhambra, the Great Wall, the Pantheon, the Sphinx, New York Public Library, etc.

Instead of this destructive project, many library supporters wish to see the Jones Library system and the town put substantial funds into enhanced services at the two branches, wage raises and full benefits for all employees, hiring of more staff, mobile and mini libraries in neighborhoods, increased open hours, revised space use, maintenance and efficiencies, renovation, green energy upgrades, and, yes, expansion — without destroying structure, grounds, and the charming, refreshing Kinsey Memorial Gardens.

All this can happen if we start over smart by voting NO on Nov. 2.

Martha Spiegelman

Martha Spiegelman is a resident of Amherst

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2 thoughts on “Letter: There Are Better Ways To Improve Our Libraries Than The Proposed Jones Expansion

  1. It’s troubling, I think, that the usual price tag mentioned for the Jones Library’s proposed demolition/construction project is ONLY for what the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners calls “eligible costs.” For construction projects, “eligible costs” include “acquisition of real property; planning; feasibility study or master plan costs; design services; demolition; site preparation; construction; and fixed capital equipment….” See Title 605, Code of Massachusetts Regulations, Section 6.02, “Eligible Costs.”

    So those “eligible costs” never did include: interest (!) on the Town’s borrowing. They have also never included architects’ fees for the yet-additional revision of the schematic designs required in order to comply, belatedly, with the Massachusetts Historic Preservation Law; the dozens of new study tables and new study chairs shown on some schematic designs to help fill up the increased stack space, regardless that the Jones is not a research library, and that an expanded Jones is to have the same number of books as now ; the cost of converting all books to RFID so that the new, $400,000 (in 2016) automatic book sorter could sort them; damage from construction vibrations to the fragile, historic Strong House next door; or new landscaping.

    Furthermore, those “eligible costs” also omit the inflation in construction costs after the 2016 grant application’s 3-year inflation cost cushion. That inflation is currently substantial.

    At the highly useful District 2 Zoom meeting on October 20th, Amherst Town Council Chair Lynn Griesemer was adamant that the Town’s share of costs for the proposed Library demolition/expansion project was capped at the 2016 figure. Setting aside that this excludes interest, that is good as far as it goes. How, nonetheless, how does the Town propose to pay these additional, but inescapable, costs? Amherst voters deserve an answer now, before we vote on the Library project referendum. There has been none. For this reason, as well as others, I think that the only prudent vote is No.

  2. These are fine ideas but rejecting this project will not save the town any money to be able to implement any of them. Instead, we will be spending the same amount to do the bare minimum. Futher many of the ideas you suggest – modest renovations, green energy upgrades, efficiency improvements – will be possible without spending more town money. https://www.joneslibrary.org/CivicSend/ViewMessage/Message/156023

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