Mary Hoyer: Urges council to vote against Jones project

Friday, March 12, 2021

I’m writing to urge the Amherst Town Council to vote “no” on the Jones Library renovation and expansion project.

My husband and I are avid, frequent library users, and have found library services to be exemplary, even during the pandemic.

I support the position that the library needs reorganization and renovation rather than a huge demolition with replacement construction. Demolishing the entire 1993 addition (the loans for which have just been paid off), putting the waste in a landfill, and building 17,000 new square feet for a total of almost 36,000 square feet (comparable to 14 average homes!) appears to be a vanity project. The library is having difficulty maintaining the current building and its staff, which raises the question of how a larger structure and staff will be overseen.

The state grant of $13.8 million may almost cover the interest on the proposal, but taxpayers would still need to borrow and repay $22 million. In Amherst, I support prioritizing the schools and making reasonable decisions regarding other capital projects, including the library, that are on the table for the next decade or more. While we all love and enjoy using the library and would like to see it renovated, the expensive overhauls proposed aren’t needed. The plan on offer is for 51,000 library users, but the Jones currently only has 19,000 card holders. This calculation needs to be reconsidered.

An alternative, more useful, and less expensive plan that better supports social justice concerns would involve increased mobile library services as well as hours at the main library and two branches, strengthened after school programs, added books and digital materials in world languages, and increased laptops for check out.

Thank you for considering a “no” vote so that the library trustees can start over, properly analyze the building they have, and develop a proposal which the town can afford and the library can maintain.

Mary Hoyer