ESL volunteer backs library expansion
Like almost everyone I know in Amherst, I love the Jones Library. In many ways, it is the hub of our community.
Good people in Amherst have different views about whether to leave it as it is, to simply make moderate renovations, or to bring it up to date as a 21st-century public library. I fall into the last category.
I am in the Jones Library at least once a week where I co-facilitate an ESL conversation group, so I am aware of the space limitations that our exemplary ESL program has, especially for those who are individual ESL tutors. Our community has become richly diverse, with many people needing help in learning and speaking English.
I am also aware that for senior citizens, the Jones Library is not user-friendly for people who use wheelchairs, walkers, or who simply can’t manage the stairways or the narrow stacks. Our community library should be brought up to standard to serve those who are disabled.
As a grandmother, I am also aware that the library does not have space for a dedicated teen area, and that our children’s area is not large enough. In the plans for a major expansion, the library will have a large dedicated area for teens and for children.
The library provides computer access to people in the community who do not have access to a computer or the internet, but at times these computers are all being used, so there is a need to expand those services.
It is true that new expansion will cost residents more in taxes, but it is not an egregious amount. For me, it is an investment in the future and in our residents. The public library is one of the few free services everyone can take advantage of. This is exactly where I want my taxes to go.
Amherst prides itself on being a place that values diversity, supports those in the community who may be struggling economically or may be disabled. Now is the time to make those values more of a reality.
And, let’s not forget that if Amherst is chosen to receive a grant from Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, that would cover a large portion of the funds necessary to bring our library up to code, as well as to expand it to better meet the needs of our community.
This is a perfect moment to support an expanded and renovated Jones Library. Let’s not devolve into factions. We all want our library to continue to be the hub of the community.
The writer is an ESL volunteer at the Jones Library.