Anne Burton: ‘Don’t let the cart pull the horse’

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

In the same issue of the Amherst Bulletin (Dec. 25), the op-ed page is devoted to three discussions of the Jones Library expansion plan which, whether for or against, certainly rests on the library becoming more of a “community center,” providing spaces for many social, educational, recreational, and civic needs.

Yet, we learn from a page two article that the Bangs Community Center is seeking ways to use empty space on its upper floor because the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program and the Center for New Americans have left the building. Wrong sort of space in the right place?

So, our community center has space that could be used for several of the activities the Jones Library claims it needs to expand to fulfill. It would seem that the organization that has eloquent spokespeople will get the funding to become all things for all people. Is there no town committee, council, or planning office responsible for evaluating our needs and considering all current resources so as to provide realistic future planning for the town’s centrally located community center and the town’s centrally located library? If the Bangs Center is not now an exciting and interesting place for social and recreational activities, what would it take to make it more attractive? Could the upper floor be used for internet access, ESL classrooms, and other needed services?

Since when must libraries become hubs for meetings, social, and recreational activities?

I’m disappointed that our Jones Library has not taken the initiative to connect us readily with free book downloads during the pandemic. The library has our email addresses, but we have not been actively offered the kind of library services that would be of great value during our isolation. Yet, the library is requesting resources to become the town community center.

Amherst is host to three colleges with auditorium spaces, libraries, classrooms and galleries that might be available to us. We have a downtown library and a community center. Perhaps we should spend our money on creative and exciting programming that uses the facilities that exist or could be enhanced to meet our needs. Let’s evaluate all of our resources and their potential before we allocate funding to the institution with the most eloquent voice. Please, don’t let the cart pull the horse, because no one is writing op-eds for the horse.

Anne Burton