Jones Library Looks To Form Equity Subcommittee. Offers Update On Home For Civil War Tablets. Budget Concerns Persist

Jones Library, Amherst, MA

Jones Library. Photo:

Jones Library News Highlights For The Week Of June 13, 2022

Youth Services Librarian Outlines Plan for Equity, Justice and Inclusion Subcommittee
Head of Youth Services, Mia Cabana, presented a proposal at the June 14 Personnel, Planning & Policy (PPP) Committee meeting for a new Jones Library subcommittee. The six-person Equity, Justice and Inclusion (EJI) Subcommittee will include four members from Amherst, at least three of whom represent communities that have been historically marginalized.  Among the group’s charges is to recommend an Equity Framework and Equity Action Plan to the Library Board of Trustees.

 Cabana requested that subcommittee members receive a stipend, following a model recommended for the Town’s Community Safety and Social Justice Committee (CSSJC). Library staff advises a budget of $1500, allowing the four community members to receive $20 for one one-hour meeting per month, for a duration of 18 months.

[See related: Letter: Town Should Provide Stipend To Members of New Public Safety Working Group]

Trustee Tamson Ely asked if the Library budget is able to cover this expense.  “Yes,” assured Library Director Sharon Sharry, “You know the Library budget is fungible, and $1500 for four people is very reasonable, so we can pull it out of other places.”

EJI members will be recommended by the PPP Committee of Ely and Trustee Farah Ameen, and appointed by the President of the Board of Trustees, Austin Sarat.

Director Shares Back Story On Housing Civil War Tablets
With a decision coming up soon on how best to accommodate Amherst’s historic Civil War Tablets in the renovated Jones Library, Sharry gave some background on the possibilities at the June 16 Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) Design Subcommittee meeting.  The six marble plaques commemorate 300+ soldiers who served in Union forces, including 21 Amherst-area African American residents.

The idea originated with a 2014 request from then Town Manager John Musante to hang the tablets in the Library.  The ground floor Woodbury Room was considered the most viable option at the time, but this location was seen as less than ideal due to the activity and limited size of the Woodbury Room, and the fact that the tablets mounted on the wall have “quite the profile.”

“The trustees agreed,” related Sharry, “that once the library was expanded, a really nice space could be set aside on the walls outside of the expanded Special Collections Department so that way everyone coming to the Library will be able to see them.  Interpretive and interactive materials would be purchased and displayed alongside the tablets.  Professional library staff would be overseeing them and answering questions. The tablets would be safe from the weather, and they would be available during all the open hours of the library, and it would be the most cost-effective way to preserve and display these important town artifacts.”

Continued Sharry, “So fast forward to today during this racial reckoning and a pandemic, and thoughts and ideas have changed.  The Town is now funding a CRESS program, a DEI department and the Town now has a working group which oversees the future of the tablets.  So many things have changed since 2014. The working group is now asking the town for a dedicated room not just a galleria.”

“Unfortunately for the tablets and us, the schematics are almost complete. The architects are moving at a very fast rate in order to meet all of our deadlines, and decisions have to be made quickly.  Our square footage is set, the budget is set, and the only way a room can be created for these tablets in the library is by taking away space from another library program element.”

Sharry has asked Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) to prepare an updated schematic design that includes a dedicated area for the Civil War Tablets. Their solution will use space previously designated for Special Collections storage.

“This compromise is not ideal,” she said. “It will limit the amount of materials that the Special Collections Department will be able to collect and conserve in the future.  I do hope that more conversations will occur during the Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) meeting to decide if it’s the best solution.”

The Civil War Tablets are expected to be on the agenda for the Friday, June 24 JLBC Design Subcommittee meeting at 9 a.m.

Library Annual Giving Running Short Of Goal
The Jones Library Budget Committee met on June 16 to review how the fiscal year 2022 (FY22) actuals are comparing to the FY22 budget projections. FY22 ends on July 1.

In addition to worrying about a roughly 20% drop in the Library’s endowment portfolio value during the current bear market, Trustee Treasurer Bob Pam expressed concern over annual giving not meeting its projection.

Development Committee Chair Lee Edwards acknowledged that total Annual Fund revenues for FY22 are totaling less than $140,000, compared to a budget projection of $175,000. The Development Committee and Friends of the Jones Library are simultaneously running a separate Capital Campaign to raise funds in support of the $36.3 million library expansion/renovation project.  Edwards explained that there was “a little giddiness” in her Annual Fund projection, and she failed to foresee the events that have unfolded this year.

Director Sharry pointed out that programming costs, which are supported by Annual Fund donations, have been down this year due to the pandemic.  “We’re good,” she said.

Community Invited To Comment on Director Performance
The Board of Trustees is gathering information for the Director’s annual performance evaluation.  They invite comments from any member of the community.  Responses are due by Friday, July 1, 2022.

Comments may be made anonymously using the online form at

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