Here are a few reasons why I think we are heading down a wrong road, regarding the Jones Library:
- A library that has had 19,000 library cards does not need a capacity to serve 50,000 people
- Half our 40,000 community members are college students, with excellent college libraries, which are what they use
- A town our size doesn’t need the state’s 9th largest library, as we are very far from the 9th largest Massachusetts town or city
- The costs have skyrocketed, and we can’t afford it without going broke
- Many of the services that were to use the enlarged Jones Library could easily be located in the to-be decommissioned Wildwood School (which is ideally located next to the middle and high school)
- It is fiscally irresponsible for the library to tap into its endowment account, more than a 4% annual draw
- A larger library will need more staff, and staff salaries are already on the chopping block
- We just finished paying for the 1993 library addition, and now we’d demolish it?!
- The town government and library board have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the interests of the community – not to endanger it with huge tax bills
- The exploding plan makes it less likely that we will have money for a new public works building, a fire station in South Amherst, and for the new elementary school – unless there is a huge tax override
- Libraries are more digital than ever, and the Jones Library book collection has already been declining
It will take bravery and public-mindedness for people who have been pushing for a new library to re-consider, and put the brakes on. We are not a town that easily sits down to collaborate, and brainstorm creatively. We need to stop our divisiveness and work more neighborly-like.
Amherst history includes centuries of disputes, but now it takes so many fewer people to cause major problems. The few people making this decision need to reappraise, not to mention listen to what the 40,000 people are willing to invest in. If properly educated and polled, I predict our community will be shown to not support continuing down this path.
If you agree that the current situation of the Jones Library project is riddled with problems, and needs to take a step back, please share your thoughts with the town manager and town council, who have the power, and hopefully the will and sense, to step on the brakes.
Ira Bryck has lived in Amherst since 1993, ran the Family Business Center for 25 years, hosted the “Western Mass. Business Show” on WHMP for seven years, now coaches business leaders, and is a big fan of Amherst’s downtown.