Library Committee Considers Metal Exterior On New Addition. Space For Civil War Tablets In Limbo

Postcard depicting Jones Library

Photo: Digital Commonwealth (CC BY-NC-ND)

Jones Library News Highlights For The Week Of June 6, 2022

Less Costly Than Brick and Slate, Metal Panels Are An Option If Budget Is Squeezed
With construction costs on the rise, The Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) has been presented with four different options for external “cladding” of the planned library addition, each expected to come in at a different cost point. On June 7 Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) showed renderings of the addition clad in all brick, all slate, brick over a slate base and metal over a slate base.

At meeting time FAA had not yet had time to prepare updated cost estimates for the four different material designs.  At the June 3 Design Subcommittee meeting, the architects provided a rough idea of the relative costs of the materials under consideration.

Traditional brick in a grayish color to match the original library building is likely to. be the most expensive. “Sculping slate,” created out of pieces leftover from the slate-cutting process, tends to be more budget-friendly.  This darker material has been proposed for the library addition’s base – the outer walls of the ground floor.  A possibly lower cost option is to use sculping slate to clad the entire addition.

The least expensive option presented was metal paneling with a foam core, called Formawall. FAA’s Ellen Anselone related how this material was selected for Framingham’s Christa McAuliffe Library after the construction project ran into budget constraints. “We started the project a little behind the ball, and we had to be very creative with the material selection for the library so we could hit the budget, which we did,” recalled Anselone.

Renderings of four different external materials options (click to enlarge).

Lacking pricing information, the initial reactions from the JLBC tended to favor the brick over slate base option that has appeared in past design renderings.

“I don’t love the all-anything,” said Library Director Sharon Sharry, “but I love the brick over slate.”

While acknowledging that he is sensitive to pricing, Town Manager Paul Bockelman said that he found the metal paneling “ghastly.” He also expressed interest in seeing a rendering that shows how the addition’s exterior materials interact with the historic front of the Jones Library.

Design Subcommittee Chair Christine Gray-Mullen declared her favorite to be the brick over slate design but said that she could be swayed over cost. “Sometimes when it is on sale you grow to like it,” she observed.

JLBC Chair Austin Sarat commented that he was having trouble seeing the complementarity of the planned metal roof with the metal siding.  Like others, he preferred the brick over slate base and admitted that it would be hard for him to accept the metal exterior as the right choice for the library.  “Now again, if that’s the only place where we can achieve a cost savings necessary to stay within our budget, then maybe that’s a different conversation,” he said.

Bockelman summed up his vision for the library exterior. “One of the things I want this library to be is that when you have outside visitors coming, you want to say, ‘You’ve got to come see our library.’”

“Let’s wait to see what happens from the estimator and then we can have more informed discussion,” advised FAA’s Tony Hsiao.

Framingham Christa McAuliffe Library with exterior metal panels. Photo:

Library Home For Civil War Tablets Is Uncertain
Amherst’s historic Civil War Tablets have sought a permanent home since they were removed from Town Hall during a 1997 renovation. The tablets were donated to the Town by the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1893 to honor the more than 300 soldiers from Amherst who fought for the Union. Among those commemorated were 21 local African American residents who served in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment and 5th Calvary.

Five of the six marble tablets measure 56 by 75 inches and weigh 600 to 800 pounds each.  They are currently on display in the Pole Room of the Bangs Community Center.

Five of the six Civil War Tablets from 1883 that commemorate 300 Amherst residents who fought in the Civil War. The tablets have been in storage for about 25 years and are now on display in the Pole Room of the Bangs Center. Photo: Benjamin Breger

The renovated Jones Library has been eyed as a suitable permanent home for the tablets, with the trustees reportedly voicing past approval.  Schematic Design documents from from May 2022 show a display area for the tablets on the ground floor near Special Collections.

Asked by JLBC member and Town Councilor Anika Lopes if there is still time to discuss the design of a dedicated space in the new library for the tablets, Sharry replied, “This is process and because the Civil War Tablet group would like some one-on-one time with the architects, I’m just not sure how this committee or the OPM or the architects want to handle that.”

Sarat clarified, “Right now [the tablets] are not part of the schematic design process and if the committee wants it to be, the committee needs to speak up clearly about it.”

Bockelman requested time on the agenda of the June 24 Design Subcommittee meeting to discuss the need for space for the tablets.

Sharry, Trustee Alex Lefebvre and OPM Craig DiCarlo expressed concern about the cost and delay that adding Civil War Tablet space to the design might incur.

Replied Bockelman, “I’m not talking about adding space, I’m talking about reprogramming existing space perhaps, and looking at how we’re allocating space. Clearly this is something that we need to address, and I just want to make sure we have a purposeful discussion, and we schedule time to do that.”

Lopes volunteered to represent the Community in the conversation and added, “I do believe that a thoughtful discussion of where these will go will be one of the most inclusive things that we can do.”  Lopes is very familiar with the history and value of the Civil War Tablets.  Her mother, Debora Bridges, won the Amherst Historical Society Conch Shell Award for her work as a tour guide for the plaques, and her late grandfather, Dudley Bridges Sr., worked energetically to advocate and raise money to have the tablets restored and put on display.

Learn more at History Bites: Dudley S. Bridges, Sr, and Amherst’s Civil War Tablets.

Town To Celebrate North Amherst Library Groundbreaking On June 15
The public is invited to a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the renovation and addition project at the North Amherst Library on Wednesday, June 15th at 11:00 AM.

The Town has worked with the Kuhn-Riddle Architects group to design plans for the project and has selected Wright Builders as the contractor. The work is being generously funded by a private donor.

This project seeks to create an accessible entrance to the library, so that all can use the space. Accessible bathrooms will be built and a community meeting space that can accommodate 40-50 people will be created. The North Amherst Library is located at 8 Montague Rd. in Amherst. Parking is limited on site so please plan accordingly or carpool if possible. The ceremony will gather behind the building.

The public is asked not to park in the parking lot at the shops, as those spaces are reserved for customers only. Attendees may also park at Mill River Recreation Area.

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7 thoughts on “Library Committee Considers Metal Exterior On New Addition. Space For Civil War Tablets In Limbo

  1. The designs for the Jones addition continue from bad to worse!! As to the Civil War Tablets being located there, I can’t believe that the architects haven’t known about this since day one? And now it’s too expensive?

  2. CORRECTION/UPDATE: I missed seeing that the Civil War Tablets are in fact depicted in the most recent schematic design document, slightly north of where they have been located previously.

    This announcement was part of the June 12 Jones Library Building Project newsletter:

    “The current schematic designs place the Civil War Tablets on the walls of the garden level entrance in the galleria space outside of the Community Room and Special Collections. The Civil War Tablets Committee requested that the Civil War Tablets be housed instead in a sophisticated gallery/designated space to showcase the Civil War tablets that represent a blueprint of Amherst History.

    The JLBC requested that the Design Subcommittee work with the designers to determine possible options for this requested space.”

  3. Metal siding will add to the Quonset hut-like appearance of the new additions. Ugh.

  4. Thank you for the clarification, Jeff Lee.
    The Civil War Tablets have been included in the building design for years, the discussion was around how they would be incorporated. I did not raise my hand to volunteer to be the voice of the community, I raised my hand to identify myself as a member of the Civil War Tablet Committee established in 2019.

  5. Pardon my bad ears, Anika. You said “committee” and I heard “community.”

    It’s great that we have online broadcasts and recordings of public meetings, but they unfortunately aren’t perfect. YouTube’s transcription service got your statement wrong, too. It heard you saying, “Well I am on a civil war type of community so I’m one ….”

    Another part of the JLBC discussion that I found confusing was the description of options for the tablets as either a “war memorial” or a “dedicated space.” I now understand that war memorial means mounting the tablets on the galleria wall, and dedicated space means a special (described by the building project newsletter as sophisticated) display area for them.

    Thanks for representing the Civil War Tablets Committee before the Design Subcommittee. I believe that a permanent home for the tablets is important to many in Amherst.

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