Eric Stocker: ‘The library is a basic service’

  • The M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury center. File photo

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

I ran into a Shutesbury neighbor in town the other day. Among other things, we discussed the proposal for a new library. He said he was opposed to it because it represented the “gentrification” of the town and would lead to an increase of property values and would make the town more “exclusive.”

It is true that a new library in Shutesbury will make the town a more desirable location to live and may in fact lead to an increase in property values. Is this gentrification? No. Is it progress? Yes.

One could make a similar argument for many things that have happened in town since the present library was constructed 120 years ago. Rural electrification, telephone service, indoor plumbing and running water (both of which the current library lacks), paved roads, good public schools, rubbish removal, and other various town services (administration, police, fire, highway, etc.) are all now viewed as essential by most residents. Similarly, Shutesbury recently invested in town-owned fiber optic broadband, to which about 90% of the town subscribes.

All of these services led to higher property values by providing essential services to residents of Shutesbury. Although not all of these services are municipally owned or operated, they all represent things that residents are willing to pay for. That is the bottom line. They are basic services, not needless frills. Clean running water and indoor plumbing are not only for the gentry.

The library is also a basic service. Library resources and materials are shared by all residents, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Our current library building is simply inadequate at meeting the needs of our community. Building a new library is neither gentrifying nor exclusionary. It is essential. After all, what could be more neighborly, inclusive, and efficient than sharing community owned materials in a community-owned building?

I encourage Shutesbury residents to vote for the new library at annual Town Meeting May 21 and at the polls on June 28.

Eric Stocker


The writer is a longtime member and former Chair of the Shutesbury Finance Committee and is a current Select Board member. These opinions are his own.