For the first time in five years, Massachusetts is providing financial help to build new public libraries.
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has awarded grants totaling $67 million to nine communities for library construction projects. The city of Springfield and the town of Hadley are the only grant recipients in western Massachusetts approved in this current round of funding.
Springfield is in line to receive $4.9 million to build a new branch library in the East Forest Park neighborhood. Hadley was approved for $3.9 million for a project to replace the town’s 115-year-old library.
The state grants will pay for roughly half the estimated construction costs for both projects.
Springfield is planning to build a $9.5 million library next to the Mary Dryden elementary school on Surrey Road. City Library Director Molly Fogarty said it will be a “model for the future” with space for children and teen programming, public computer terminals, and a community room.
The new library, at 16,800 square feet, would be four times the size of the current neighborhood branch library that operates from a leased storefront in a shopping plaza.
" The current space is insufficient," said Fogarty. " It is our second-busiest branch and we don't have room for programming, we won't have a really good children's area, we don't have enough room for collections."
City Councilor Kateri Walsh, who served on a committee that helped select the location for the proposed new library branch, said she was very pleased the state approved funding for the project.
" This is something the people ( of the neighborhood) wanted and it is going to be well-supported," said Walsh.
The Springfield Library Foundation has pledged to raise $2 million for the building project and the city of Springfield will make up the difference.
Officials say the new library could be built in three years.
Jo-Ann Konieczny, chairwoman of Hadley’s Library Trustees, was ecstatic when state funding for the town’s library project was announced.
" We were shocked to say the least," said Konieczny. " We had hoped to be on their waiting list, we had no idea we would be in the first round."
The proposed 11,800-square-foot library would replace a turn-of-the 20th Century building that is not accessible for people with movement disabilities, lacks adequate space for the library’s collections, and has limited parking.
" It really brings us to a library more fitting for a town of 5,000, rather than a town of 1,000, which was the population when the building was built," said Konieczny.
Town Meeting voters this fall will be asked to approve $3.5 million as the town’s share of the project and then a voter referendum would be needed to approve borrowing that amount.
The state library commissioners received 33 applications for this round of funding. The state library grants are made as bond funds become available, typically ever five years or so.
Amherst applied for $13.87 million to renovate and expand the Jones Library. The project was ranked ninth on a funding wait list.