Library Building Project Eyes Tools For Collecting Public Comments

Jones Library Building Committee meeting

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

Jones Library News Highlights For The Week Of May 16, 2022

Outreach Committee Explores Using UMass-developed Community Participation Tools
The Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) Outreach Subcommittee is exploring a pair of community participation tools developed at UMass to engage the public in the process of refining the final design of the renovation of the Jones Library.

An online tool dubbed Amherst Talks was given an initial trial by the Town late last year to solicit community input on changes to Kendrick Park.  It is administered by Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci, a research fellow for the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure at UMass.

The web-based application allows visitors who have signed up and logged in to view and post comments related to several different questions related to the library’s design and function. For example, one question asks “What would make you want to come to the Jones Library more? Less?” Comments submitted through July 1 will be forwarded to the JLBC.

A second tool under consideration is called CommunityClick. Described as a real-time, in meeting anonymous feedback system, the tool was previously tested at the December 2 Town Services and Outreach Committee public hearing about Kendrick Park.

At the May 17 meeting of the Outreach Subcommittee, Chair Alex Lefebvre discussed using some additional homegrown resources to get library project information out to the community and encourage comments.  She has been working with Matt Berube, Jones Library Head of Information Services, to prototype a set of “padlets,” a type of online notice board, for communicating library project questions and information to the public.

“The nice thing about a padlet is that anyone can access it,” she said.  “The scary thing about a padlet is that anybody can access it,” she added.

Some padlets

She pointed out that levels of security can be applied to padlets to control who can see and write to them. Lefebvre described the current padlet page setup, where the link address is unknown to the public but can be distributed to members of the library community. This solves the problem of unwanted comments from internet trolls, she said, and can be sent out in the weekly library email blast that goes to about 10,000 people.

A JLBC newsletter has been launched. Its goal is to present updates on the building project, information on upcoming meetings, community events, and links to polls.  The inaugural issue announces upcoming in-person community outreach events on May 22 (Olympia Oaks & Butternut), June 11 (Village Park), Thursdays from 11am-1pm (Amherst Survival Center) and Saturdays from 9am-12pm (Amherst Farmer’s Market).

Folks interested in submitting anonymous public comments, either general or specific to the renovated library design, are encouraged to participate in the Amherst Indy online survey, Speak Up! Share Your Comments With The Jones Library Outreach Committee.  Submissions will be accepted through next Thursday, May 26 and will be forwarded to the JLBC Outreach Subcommittee.

Historical Commission Clears Way For Move Of Kinsey Garden
On May 18 the Amherst Historical Commission conducted a public hearing to review a proposal from the Jones Library and Kestrel Trust to move a large portion of the Kinsey Memorial Garden, located in the read of the library, to Kestrel Trust Headquarters at 37 Bay Rd. 

The move is necessitated by the demolition and expansion of the library building’s 1993 addition with construction expected to begin in June 2023. “Next summer the library’s back yard will turn into a bit of a construction zone,” predicted Library Director Sharon Sharry.

Kestrel Trust presented a list of approximately 30 plants that they plan to move. They will hire a professional to perform root pruning in the spring, and return in the fall to complete the transplanting.  Some specimens in the garden will be too big to move.

Both Carol Pope, who designed the garden in memory of her late husband David Chapin Kinsey, and the Amherst Garden Club have been involved in developing the Kestrel plan.  The garden dates back to the mid-1990s.

The Jones Library building and property are protected by a Historic Preservation Restriction Agreement between the Library Trustees and the Town of Amherst.  The agreement requires the local historical commission to review and approve all major alterations.  “Altering or removing significant landscape features” are deemed major changes in the document.

There was no comment during the public comment portion of the public hearing.  The Historical Commission voted 6-0 to approve the garden relocation.

Jones Library landscaping in the 1920s (photo:amherstma.gov)
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