Mary Sayer: Library or second Bangs Community Center?

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Published: 06-14-2024 3:49 PM

When I read about the current plans for the renovation of the Jones library, it sounds more like the description of a second Bangs Community Center, a building with only a nod to history (front façade retained), a massed building at the back with minimal landscaping surrounding it, plain interior walls, linoleum flooring and an asphalt clad roof (which will not be adequate in the long term for solar panels). And indeed, words like “community center” are creeping into the current promotion of the library expansion and renovation.

Unfortunately, this proposed renovated building will be neither fish nor fowl — unnecessarily big for our library needs, but inadequate as a badly needed community center. A real community center would have space for seniors, a teen center with a gym, an auditorium, a kitchen, a dining space, and rooms to house other interests of town citizens. We will never get that real community center if the library gets built as planned.

My mother, Winifred Sayer, was the first curator of the Special Collections at the Jones. She said people came from all over the world and never failed to comment on the beauty and specialness of the Jones, the intimate, human-centered vibe, its delightful children’s wing, the artistic and mellow woodwork found throughout the building and the historic appeal of the building itself. This is a draw for out-of-towners to come visit Amherst and fits well with the Emily Dickinson/Robert Frost town history.

So, we have a choice: treasure our historic Jones Library with a thoughtful renovation or pay a very high price for an expanded and stripped down library/community building that will be unsatisfactory for either purpose. If I had the choice to vote again, I would vote no to the current iteration of the Jones Library expansion.

Mary Sayer