Sarah McKee: The Jones Library badly needs a second rescue job

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Jones Library’s Special Collections includes works of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Julius Lester and more. That leaks in the library’s roof have yet again damaged some of them is unacceptable. The article also mentions the special collections’ obsolete climate control system.

As a library trustee a decade ago, I once climbed to the library’s fourth floor to inspect its writhing tangle of red rubber pneumatic tubes.

The library trustees have two proposals to eliminate these threats: (1) renovate the library, including the special collections area, within the building’s existing footprint; (2) demolish one-third of the existing building, and construct a new special collections area within a major addition.

The latter would cost $49 million or more. A state grant of $13.8 million would essentially cover the interest.

Both proposals mean delay. For several years, water will continue to leak on special collections’ rare books, historic photographs, and irreplaceable manuscripts every time it rains.

Dear trustees, you must protect the special collections — now. The third floor Goodwin Room is large. It is almost always locked. It is almost never used. Install air conditioners for emergency climate control. Move the threatened materials there — now. Then canvass Amherst College, Hampshire College, and UMass for appropriate rental space, until you secure a leakproof roof over Special Collections, and modern climate control.

Amherst College undergraduates, “cool, systematic, and inestimably serviceable,” rescued Jones Library holdings with a “book brigade” when its original location, the wooden Amherst House, burst into flames late on the snowy evening of Nov. 9, 1926. That’s what former Trustee Frank Prentice Rand writes, in his “Jones Library in Amherst, 1919–1969.”

The Jones Library badly needs a second rescue job — now. Volunteers?

Sarah McKee