Letter: Enough Is Enough! It’s Time to Change Our Mind on the Jones Library Expansion

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Preservation of all of the historic woodwork in the Jones Library (excepting the main staircase) wil be scrapped in the latest value engineering proposal. Photo: amherstma.gov

The following letter was sent to the Amherst Town Council on May 31, 2024.

I have hesitated taking a public position about the expansion of the Jones Library, even though it seems a reach too far, more than we can afford, especially given the branch libraries and top-notch academic libraries to which many of us have access.  At the same time, I have found the argument somewhat compelling that the Jones project can achieve both the urgently needed repairs and expand the library for the same price as only making the repairs– although we have not seen a specific estimate for the repairs-only project.  

But enough is enough!  It’s time to change our mind! With this latest development of only one bid, millions over projection, it has become blazingly clear that this project is a chimera, taking us down a path of wasting precious town funds, undermining other critical needs, deepening destructive fractures in our civic culture, losing time, and most likely resulting in a compromised library project that will not be what people voted for. I anticipate, in a desperate effort to reduce the price tag, library leaders will recommend cutting the environmental, energy, historic, landscaping and aesthetic components of the project, central to the project’s appeal!  

I am tired of hearing unlikely promises from library leaders whose minds are set, and who seem increasingly out of touch with the rapidly changing public opinion, committed to building this library, no matter what, come hell or high water.

It’s time to change our mind! Changing one’s mind isn’t easy, especially when positions have been bolstered by years of taking sides.  But history shows us exemplary leaders – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Einstein, Lincoln, among others – who with new experience and information changed their minds for the better. Let’s have the courage to change our mind about this disastrous library expansion project.

Let’s pull the plug on this project and, after taking a deep breath and perhaps a few long walks in the woods, go back to the drawing board.   Let’s work together on a new plan.  Frankly, I’d be happy with the Jones Library in a quonset hut in exchange for a political culture where we work together with mutual respect to solve the very real, myriad challenges Amherst faces.

Meg Gage

Meg Gage is the now-retired founding director of the Peace Development Fund and the Proteus Fund, national organizations based in Amherst that organize within philanthropy to advance campaigns related to peace, human rights, and democracy. She is a graduate of ARHS and taught at the high school. She served on the recent Charter Commission and is currently the chair of the Participatory Budgeting Commission and on the Planning Team of the District One Neighborhood Association (DONA).

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3 thoughts on “Letter: Enough Is Enough! It’s Time to Change Our Mind on the Jones Library Expansion

  1. Frankly, I’d be happy with the Jones Library in a quonset hut in exchange for a political culture where we work together with mutual respect to solve the very real, myriad challenges Amherst faces.

    I agree with this – thank you for those comments – our town is fractured like our nation. Finding unity and building community is sacrificed to pride and ego. In the interest of unity I would accept a very ugly (to me) expanded Jones Library if that is truly the decision of a broadly inclusive, considerately deliberated process.

  2. Re Bob Greeley’s post:

    I would be very unhappy unless the quonset hut replaced Mother Amherst’s beloved living room that could be restored according to National Preservation Guidelines. Then we readers would have a place to go for reading and borrowing books, music and film recordings, delving in archives etc.—all the things traditional libraries were meant to do. Even a place that we used to inhabit as pre-license seventh and eighth graders in the (g)olden days! Give it a pool and the “new” library could replace the YM(W)CA if we had one.

  3. The Library Beast
    Years ago, many opposed, and a petition was signed,
    Lots of signatures collected, yet court nullified.
    Self serving politicians Do not have a clue,
    As to what is needed And what is poo poo.
    A 56 million dollar library yet 4 within 10 miles,
    The building expansion should be shoved in the files.
    In the files of obsolescence. So stuck in the past,
    Sure save the stairs but sell the Jones, fast.
    Use the $ for Munson and the land all around
    add a modern addition possibilities abound.
    The south common offers parking galore,
    and beautiful views of the great outdoors.
    Modern and streamlined, is what we need,
    Not exploding budgets for a vanity plea.
    Anonymous

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