Library Grants Room To Civil War Tablets. Volunteer Librarians Nixed

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 June 20, 2022

North Amherst Library Can’t Be Staffed By Volunteers Says Director
Plans are underway for moving the contents of the North Amherst Library (NAL) to its temporary quarters at 81 Cowls Rd. in the Mill District.  This space will serve as an interim location for 10 to 12 months while the branch library in North Amherst Center is renovated.

At the June 21 Buildings & Facilities meeting Chair Alex Lefebvre reported that North Amherst residents have volunteered to staff the library in the hope of increasing the hours that the branch is open to the public.

Jones Library Director Sharon Sharry explained that the NAL will maintain its current schedule of 20 open hours per week into the future, with two paid staffers continuing to oversee its operation.

“For the same reason a business would not run its business using volunteers, the Library is not going to be expanding hours using volunteers,” she said. She cited the need for volunteer training, the duty to guard the confidentiality of patron records, and the unreliability of volunteers who “when push comes to shove get sick [or] go on vacation and now you’ve got to find new people to fill in because you’ve already promised these bigger hours.”

The 20 open hours per week at the NAL are matched by the 20 hours per week that the Munson Library in South Amherst is open.  The Jones Library in downtown Amherst is open 55.5 hours per week during the summer. Sharry announced that new hire Petra Pendroff will start as Head of Branch Services on July 11.

The North Amherst Library will close for packing and moving at the end of the day on Saturday, June 25, and will reopen in its interim Mill District space after July 1.

New Design Houses Civil War Tablets In Dedicated Exhibit Room
The Town’s Civil War Tablets Working Group joined the Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) Design Subcommittee on June 24 to review the architects’ latest plan to house Amherst’s historic Civil War Tablets.

Representing the Tablet Working Group were Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Jennifer Moyston, Ben Breger of the Planning Dept., Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek, and community members with historical expertise; Debora Bridges, Amilcar Shabazz, Carlie Tartakov and Gary Tartakov. Town Councilor Anika Lopes was in attendance but not participating due to Open Meeting Law requirements.

Working Group members spoke of the importance of the Civil War Tablets to Amherst history. Ziomek described the marble plaques as priceless and unique.

Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) disclosed an updated design schematic that places the Civil War Tablets in a 545 sq. foot room previously slated for Library Special Collections use. The Tablet Room is located in the original 1928 portion of the library and will adjoin a Special Collections Room.

Still to be decided is whether the six tablets weighing up to 800 pounds each should be mounted on the room’s walls or placed on the floor where the backs of the tablets may also be viewed.  Room orientation, doorways and wall glazing also remain to be finalized.

FAA suggested that a curator be appointed who can help with decisions on how best to arrange the Exhibit Room.  The Working Group proposed that William Harris, President and CEO of Space Center Houston Learning Center and a nephew of Civil War Tablets champion Dudley Bridges might serve as curator.

Designers Recommend Removal of Elevator, Change In Exterior Material
The JLBC and its Design Subcommittee confronted two impactful design decisions that must be made before the building project can advance to the Design Development phase.

After further study, FAA now recommends that the Library’s narrow existing elevator be removed, and the building be serviced by a single new elevator with access to all floors.  Benefits touted for this design include adding usable space on all floors and eliminating the need and cost to maintain two elevators.  FAA acknowledged that there would be an upfront cost to remove the current elevator and extend the new elevator to the third floor.  Another consideration is that the new elevator shaft will protrude above part of the roof line behind the Jones Library Amity Street view which is protected by a Historical Preservation Restriction Agreement.  The shaft design must be approved by the Mass. Historical Commission.  Designer Josephine Penta indicated that the elevator shaft exterior would be clad in metal paneling.

After further research into costs, FAA now recommends abandoning dark slate sculping as the material for the lower level of the library addition.  At $120-$130 per sq. foot, slate was deemed too expensive.  The most cost-effective materials were found to be brick at $40-$42 per sq. foot, and Arriscraft Shadow Stone at $50 per sq. foot.  The Arriscraft product can be used where a darker tone is desired.

Centria metal paneling, with a look not held in high regard by the building committee, was found to be relatively expensive at $75-$80 per sq. foot, though it has the benefit of including a layer of insulation.

After consulting with their cost estimator, FAA learned that there has been a slight softening of pricing in the industry, with material costs beginning to come down.

The Design Subcommittee accepted FAA’s recommendation and opted for brick for the exterior material on upper floors of the addition and Arriscraft Shadow Stone on the lower level as their first choice.  All brick is a potential alternative.

Library Pays Amherst $500,000 As First Fundraising Installment
The Friends of the Jones Library have announced the payment of $500,000 to the Town of Amherst as its first installment toward the renovation and expansion of the Jones Library.

The Jones Library Board of Trustees has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Town to provide $6,656,576 toward the Total Project Cost, estimated to be $36,279,700.  The Library share is expected to be made up of $1,000,000 awarded as a Community Preservation Act grant for historic preservation, and funds raised from additional grants and donations to the Friends Capital Campaign.

The Town’s share of the project cost has been capped by Town Council and the MOA at $15,751,810.  Should the Library fail to fundraise its share, it has committed to tapping into its roughly $8 million endowment to make up the difference.

The MOA calls for the Library to deposit with the Town Treasurer all Capital Campaign donations as they are received, minus reasonable fundraising costs and expenses.  The Library is required to annually report the results of their fundraising efforts over the past fiscal year, including pledges made, receipt of funds, and status of other initiatives such as tax credits and grants.  Fiscal Year 2022 ends on July 1.

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