The North Amherst Library reopened on Monday afternoon (2/5), after being closed for 20 months for renovations. There was no formal opening ceremony; that will come in the spring, but there was a festive atmosphere nonetheless as Amherst residents packed the cozy building to get a look at the new space.
Renovations included expanding the original 926 sq. ft. library with the addition of a 1210 sq. ft. comprised of a community meeting room that can accommodate 50 people, two spacious, accessible bathrooms, and a wheel chair accessible lift providing access from the rear parking lot and community room level to the main library.
The new space is warm and welcoming and includes a children’s nook and an impressive collection of books. Visitors got right to work doing library things, perusing the shelves, talking about books, checking out books, and keeping the two librarians engaged. Head librarian Petra Pendroff distributed free gift cards to the Mill District’s General Store while Assistant Librarian Sarah Stroud was busy checking out books including dispensing a stack of Paul Harding’s This Other Eden, which is the 2024 selection for the Jones Library’s community reading program, On The Same Page. The delight with the new space was apparent among the visitors, although several expressed disappointment that the community room was locked and is, as yet, unfurnished. There were no indications when the room would be opened to the public. Architect Chris Farley was on hand and received accolades from those who recognized him.
The North Amherst Library’s hours are Monday 3:30-7:30; Tuesday 10:00-2:00; Wednesday 3:30-7:30; Thursday CLOSED; Friday 10:00-2:00; Saturday 10:00-2:00; Sunday CLOSED.
The North Amherst Library is one of the oldest buildings in town, completed in 1893 in what was the northern end of town, characterized by farming and factories along the Mill River. The architect was Roswell Putnam (1840–1911) the foremost residential architect in Amherst and Northampton in the last two decades of the 19th century. The library design is in the Queen Anne style which was typical of much of Putnam’s work. The library was the first of three jewel box libraries that he designed, the other two being the Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury and Meekins Library in Williamsburg.
The project for the addition took form in 2017 when Town Meeting allocated $50,000 for a design study. In 2018, the Friends of the North Amherst Library requested $45,000 of Community Preservation Act historical preservation funds to begin raising money for a single unisex bathroom and an elevator. Afterwards, an anonymous donor offered to fund the more ambitious expansion which was completed at a total cost of $2 million.
See additional pictures of opening day and another story in the Daily Hampshire Gazette