North Amherst Library Finds Interim Home In Mill District. Special Collections’ Head Departs To Belchertown

Architect's rendering of design of North Amherst Library renovation. Photo: Amherst Planning Department

Jones Library News Highlights For The Week Of May 23, 2022

Special Collections’ Cyndi Harbeson To Take Helm Of Belchertown Library

Jones Library Board of Trustees has announced that Special Collections Curator Cyndi Harbeson is leaving for a new position as Director of the Clapp Memorial Library in Belchertown.  She will be replacing Sheila McCormick who is retiring after eleven years as head of the Clapp.

Harbeson has emerged as a key figure in several aspects of Jones Library administration.  In addition to serving as the public face of Special Collections she recently overhauled the Library’s policy statements around Special Collections Development and Ownership of Artwork.  Last August she completed a 25-page inventory of Special Collections items to be deaccessioned.

She has also filled in as Head of Branch Services and developed a plan for moving the North Amherst Library collection to a temporary location while it undergoes renovation.

Director Sharon Sharry praised Harbeson for crafting all the Library’s COVID-19 protocols and reopening procedures.

In 2021 Harbeson received a $1000 grant from the TJX Foundation to support increasing racial equity at the Jones Library.

“This library, this town will forever be grateful for her passion and love and friendship and dedication,” said Sharry.

North Amherst Library To Move To Nearby Mill District During Renovation
The branch library in North Amherst is scheduled for a long-sought renovation after an anonymous donor contributed the funds necessary for construction.

“I’m excited to say that a contractor has been chosen and contract documents have been signed and we’re expecting a June 2022 groundbreaking,” reported Library Director Sharon Sharry.

The project is expected to take ten to eleven months.  Library staff will need a week to close the building and pack up collection materials before moving the library to an interim location.

Initial plans were to move the North Amherst Library to a temporary location across town in the Munson Library.  However, the commercial area off Cowls Road known as the Mill District has volunteered space next to The Closet clothing boutique.

“The Mill District has been incredibly wonderful, and I believe they worked with the District One Neighborhood Association (DONA) who really wanted to keep the library [nearby],” said Alex Lefebvre, Chair of the Buildings & Facilities Committee.

The renovation project is being overseen by the Town which owns the building.

Bears Visit Library Endowment
At the end of 2021 the financial picture for the Jones Library endowment was rosy.  The endowment’s value had risen almost $1 million over the previous twelve months and was hovering near an all-time high of just under $10 million.

However, in his Endowment Summary presented at the May 23 Investment Committee meeting, Vanguard Investment Advisor Dan Voss delivered a sobering description of how the endowment has been affected by the 2022 economic downturn. “This is one of the worst bear markets that we’ve seen,” acknowledged Voss.

On May 20 the endowment portfolio was valued at $8,495,447. This was down from $9,862,525 at the end of December, representing a loss of nearly 14% over the period.

Voss tempered the unsettling news by explaining that Vanguard continues to maintain a 4% target return over the next 10 years on an annualized basis.

Trustees Bob Pam and Austin Sarat expressed some concern that in addition to encountering negative 2022 returns, beginning in October, Vanguard will be raising its fee to manage the Jones Library portfolio to $30,000 per year, up from its current fee of $25,000.

Buildings & Facilities Committee Embraces Transparency
In a departure from prior library meeting practice, the Buildings & Facilities Committee recorded its May 24 meeting and posted the video to the Town of Amherst YouTube channel.  “I would be a fan of recording them,” said Chair Alex Lefebvre, and Library IT Specialist Hank Allan provided the technical support.

The Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC), with the help of Town staff, records all full committee meetings and its Design and Outreach subcommittee meetings. The JLBC Outreach Subcommittee, also chaired by Lefebvre, is currently looking to engage the public in providing ideas that may influence the building project’s final design.

Transparency in government advocates may hope that the Jones Library Board of Trustees will follow the lead of the Buildings & Facilities Committee and begin recording its meetings and those of its Budget, Development, Investment and Personnel, Planning & Policy Committees.

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2 thoughts on “North Amherst Library Finds Interim Home In Mill District. Special Collections’ Head Departs To Belchertown

  1. CORRECTION: The North Amherst Library groundbreaking was reported to be scheduled for June 22. That should be June 2022. Town Manager Paul Bockelman reports that no date has been set but the event will likely take place in June.

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