Library Reorganization Means New Uses For Former Branches

Jul 31, 2013

The public library system in Springfield, Massachusetts is being reorganized. It will mean longer hours of operation, but fewer branches. The buildings that are closing as libraries later this year  will not be shuttered for very long, as officials today unveiled plans for new public uses.

The Liberty Street branch library will become a senior citizen social center with a new park next door
Credit WAMC

   Under a system-wide reorganization, hours at the Springfield Public Library’s branches will increase from 18 hours a week at each location to 30 hours per week. Nineteen people will be added to the staff. There will be new programs focusing on literacy, after school activities, workforce development and community engagement.

   Springfield Public Library Director Molly Fogarty said the changes, expected to occur by October, will put the system on solid ground for the future.

   City officials and neighborhood residents gathered Wednesday under a white tent outside the Liberty Street Branch Library where Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that when the building ceases to be a library, it will become a senior citizen social center.

Also, a park with walking trails, exercise areas, and a children’s playground will be constructed next door on what is now a vacant lot. Officials announced the park will be named for the late Mary Troy, a longtime activist in the neighborhood known as Hungry Hill.

The Pine Point branch library, also closing, will have new uses, but details have not been finalized.

The city library’s budget was increased this fiscal year to $4.1 million from $3.5 million. Last year the city closed three branch libraries in July as a result of budget cuts, but following a public uproar the mayor and city council agreed to appropriate $260,000 to allow those branches to reopen.

Jim O’Connor, a lifelong resident of Hungry Hill, said he is delighted with the plans to reuse the neighborhood’s branch library.

The woman for whom the park is being named, Mary Troy, died about a year ago. Her daughter, Maura Cournoyer, said her mother had championed the creation of a senior center, which found temporary quarters for years in a church basement and later a firehouse.

The renovation of the branch library building, which officials said was constructed in the 1920s, will cost the city just $80,000.  The construction work will be done by Hampden County Jail inmates who participate in a pre-release work program.