Jones Library in Amherst outlines temporary digs during construction of addition, renovation

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-23-2023 7:38 PM

AMHERST — Seven locations spread throughout Amherst could provide the temporary space needed for the Jones Library to continue operations when the $43.5 million project to renovate and expand the 43 Amity St. building gets underway in late February 2024.

With no town-owned or commercial space in Amherst large enough to accommodate existing services identified in a thorough study by Library Director Sharon Sharry and Colliers International, as the owner’s project manager, the Jones Library Building Committee was presented a plan last Thursday showing how the library would continue to run from various sites during construction that is expected to take about 20 months.

The locations include an empty office building at 15 Research Drive near the Belchertown line, vacant commercial space at 59-63, 69 and 81 Cowls Road in the Mill District in North Amherst, the former Amherst Boys and Girls Club at 29 A Cottage St. in downtown, the North Amherst Library at 6 Montague Road and the Munson Memorial Library at 1046 South East St.

Sharry said the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, which is providing a $13.87 million construction grant for the project, requires all existing services to continue within the town’s borders. This constraint, as well as the Jones Library’s extensive services, including the English as a Second Language program, the Burnett Art Gallery and the special collections department, made it a challenge to create a relocation plan.

“There’s no one space large enough for all our needs, there just isn’t,” Sharry said.

Were there more flexibility allowed by the state, Sharry said an exploration of the feasibility of the Campus Shopping Plaza in Hadley might have been done. That site is just over the town line and has vacant commercial space between Stop & Shop and Liquors 44.

Unlike in the early 1990s, the plan has been to vacate the Jones building, setting aside $500,000 in the project budget for renting or building out space, and $150,000 for moving costs. Sharry said this will prove more cost-effective for the town, as the project can be completed more quickly.

Sharry said she and staff believe that will be better than the alternative of operating the library out of trailers.

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“We will get done what we need to get done,” Sharry said.

Part of the plan is also to expand the hours the branch libraries are open to satisfy the requirements of the state aid.

The plan, which Sharry said is still at a “high level” and not overly detailed, will also be examined by the library trustees. It could also be contingent on getting the costs in line with the budget. The current projected costs for the rent and build out is $552,350 for using the Research Drive site, owned by Julie Marcus. formerly the chief operating officer of New England Environmental, the Cowls Road and Cottage Street sites owned by Cinda Jones.

Will Fernandez, an assistant project manager for Colliers, presented an overview of what each site could be used for.

At Research Drive, with 3,100 square feet, would be the offices for the library director and her staff, special collections and technical services. An additional 1,500 square feet in that building’s basement would be storage. The 59-63 Cowls Road site, the largest at 4,486 square feet, would be stacks and storage for the adult collection, The 69 Cowls Road site, at 1,700 square feet, would be for children and teen materials, and 81 Cowls Road, at 1,000 square feet, would house the reference desk and public computers.

The Cottage Street building, next to the high school track, would be for the ESL program, catering to people who rely on public transportation. “The beauty of it is it has a nice chunk of space to be the home base,” Sharry said.

At the North Amherst Library, being expanded through a privately funded $2 million addition to the town-owned building, the community room would be used for programs, while the Munson Memorial Library would be home to the facilities and maintenance departments and more storage of books, though the space would periodically be vacated to accommodate municipal, state and federal elections.

In addition to bringing the costs in line, Sharry said a concern with the plan is whether there is sufficient space for storing the collection.

Even though the there is no consolidated site for operations, this could prove advantageous, Sharry said, as the plan would for be patrons who put holds on materials and want to pick them up to be able to go to a preferred location closer to their homes. Shary said George Hicks-Richards, the facilities supervisor, and his team will be a delivery service during this temporary period.

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