Letter: What Exactly Is The Library’s Plan For Teens?

Photo: Springfield Boys and Girls Club. Creative Commons

The papers are full of letters advocating Yes and No votes on the library referendum. I will be voting NO but I agree with virtually all of the goals of the Yes voters. Not one of those letters, though, has explained why an expansion of this magnitude is necessary to achieve those goals.

One of the goals, though, bothers me, and none of the advocates, including any of the Trustees, has explained it. This is the special space for teens, highlighted as one of the chief changes in the expanded Jones. What special features will it have to allow teens to use the Jones more usefully?  Will teens be expected (or even required) to use this space or will teens have access to the whole building as other patrons will?  I sense a whiff of age-segregation here – ironic when the Jones has recently declared itself in favor of inclusivity.  Teens, like all users, should have access to all areas of the Jones. Intergenerational spaces are tremendously valuable.

I have long advocated for the town to provide more opportunities for teens to gather, socialize, and study outside of school hours, and wished this to be specifically included in the Master Plan eleven years ago. Should such a space be in the library? Not necessarily, and certainly not at such a tremendous cost to the town.

I am troubled that I have no idea what the Trustees or library staff are thinking about this dedicated space. Even Bob Pam, whose work I admire and greatly appreciate, doesn’t explain what the Teen Center is all about. But Bob does make one statement that also troubles me. He notes the changes in the plans for the new building over the years, and that reminds me that when we vote on Tuesday we don’t really know what we are voting for, either in terms of appearance or function. We are voting for a lot of square feet but the process of finalizing those square feet will be in the hands of the architects and Trustees and future changes could be significant. We mustn’t be misled by artist’s renderings. At one time, online floor plans came up when one clicked on a link to the library project, but then they disappeared (although they may still exist somewhere in the miasma of linked reports on the project).  

When we vote on Tuesday a Yes vote puts the project solely in the hands of the architects and Trustees. A No vote allows the opportunity for more resident and user contributions to the planning and a likelihood that the Jones will once again serve as the unifying force for our community that we so badly need.

Michael Greenebaum

Michael Greenebaum was Principal of Mark’s Meadow School from 1970 to 1991, and from 1974 taught Organization Studies in the Higher Education Center at the UMass School of Education.  He served in Town Meeting from 1992, was on the first Charter Commission in 1993, and served on several town committees including the Town Commercial Relations Committee and the Long Range Planning Committee.

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