$200K state grant boosts Amherst’s Jones Library project capital campaign
May 26, 2022 : Daily Hampshire Gazette, by Scott Merzbach
AMHERST — Improved access for visitors to the Burnett Gallery at the Jones Library, and upgraded mechanical systems for the building, will be achieved through a $200,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund.
Officials at the library and with its capital fundraising campaign team this week announced that the grant, administered by MassDevelopment and Mass Cultural Council, will give the library the capacity to significantly expand exhibits, programs and other resources for both residents and tourists.
The $36.3 million expansion and renovation of the 43 Amity St. building is considered a key aspect of the ongoing Destination Amherst plan that has already featured the opening of The Drake performance venue, and will also include renovations to the North Common and construction of a performance shell on the Town Common.
“This is a huge shot in the arm for the Jones Library capital campaign,” campaign Co-Chairman Kent Faerber said in a statement. “The commonwealth’s investment in the Jones Library helps to attract gifts from other institutions, as well as from individuals.”
The grant, secured by Financial Development Agency, a local company assisting with the capital campaign that is a collaboration between elected trustees and Friends of the Jones Library, was one of 115 awarded across the state.
Jones Library Director Sharon Sharry said getting the grant shows that the library plays a central role as a cultural institution in Amherst and the region.
When the project is complete, the Jones is expected to be one of the most climate-friendly buildings in Amherst, with a new heating and cooling system that will eliminate the use of fossil fuels and create a net-zero-ready building.
The project also aims to restore most of the original 1928 building while at the same time improving the building layout so it is more accessible and functional, with repairs and updates to the elevator, wiring and carpets. The expansion will create a space for teens, a bigger children’s room, a climate-controlled area for special collections, and an improved area for the English as a Second Language program.
In addition to fundraising and seeking grants, the project, with groundbreaking tentatively set for October 2023, is supported by $15.8 million allocated by the Town Council and a $13.8 million award from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
Meanwhile, a town-appointed building committee is seeking public input as the architectural plans continue to be developed.
Trustee Alex Lefebvre said at Wednesday’s meeting that the committee has several ways to do outreach and has gotten comments from close to 300 people in town, and is also publishing a weekly newsletter.
The committee is doing outreach meetings at apartment complexes, including visits to Olympia Oaks and Butternut Farm, and will be at Village Park on the afternoon of June 11. It is setting up a table at the Amherst Farmers Market every Saturday, she said.
A website for the project is at https://bit.ly/3wLalq3.