Judith Luddy: Many reasons to vote ‘No’

Thursday, October 21, 2021

What is very disheartening, as we face the decisive Jones Library vote, is that not once in this yearslong process has town leadership provided a neutral forum where all viewpoints could be presented, discussed and defended, helping an informed citizenry develop a communal vision of what the Jones should be.

Instead, we’ve seen not process but presentations — which we either like or we don’t, are allowed limited Q&A, and then just take sides and dig in with published letters and yard signs.

Aren’t we better than that? We all love the Jones Library and want an upgrade. Aren’t we capable of talking, listening and learning — finding ways to agree and move forward?

When hundreds of citizens are concerned enough to sign petitions to slow the process down, the appropriate response of good leadership should be to meet dissent head-on with open discussion, inviting dialogue and seeking resolution. Sadly, our leaders instead closed ranks, pulled a few dirty tricks to discredit the petition process built into our governance, leaving us to lurch forward with a town divide nearly as fraught with intrigue and misinformation as is the world around us.

And unless we vote “No” to stop the momentum and listen to our dedicated, knowledgeable Amherst citizens who have uncovered serious disconnects in the current design, it’s going to get worse. When the destruction of the library begins, when the trucks bearing 1,660 tons of debris start to lumber through town, when the last of the back garden is under concrete, when the iconic entryway is wrapped in a translucent semicircle and the Strong House shakes on its endangered foundation, there will be a lot of second thoughts and second guessing.

We are on the threshold of losing something dear that we have too long taken for granted, and which will emerge as another thing entirely. We have not explored comparative ways to renovate the Jones to fulfill its original purpose: a beautiful and welcoming place for those who love books and all that relates to them. Moreover, we have so far lost the chance to consider creative and best use of other contingent downtown features, such as the lovely garden and the fire station.

Unless we vote “No” and start over smartly, we are plodding toward an unlovely and totally expedient use of mere space.

Judith Luddy