New Greenfeld Public Library to open in July

By MARY BYRNE 

Staff Writer

Published: 05-31-2023 10:02 AM

GREENFIELD — A decade after the idea was first conceptualized, Greenfield’s new public library is officially set to open.

“It has exceeded all of my expectations,” Library Director Ellen Boyer said Tuesday as she walked through the new library on Main Street. “I can’t wait to see people’s faces when they walk through the door. … We can be a fully functional 21st-century library in this building.”

The building’s grand opening will take place July 13, according to Boyer. Prior to that, on June 17 at 2 p.m., the current library, located next door in the Leavitt Hovey House, will cease operations so that collections can be moved to the new building. On June 17, library staff plan to host a small celebration at the Leavitt Hovey House, Boyer said. 

In 2019, seven years after the vision for a new Greenfield Public Library was first discussed, voters approved building a new library with a 61% positive vote. The $19.5 million appropriation accounts for construction costs as well as those of the architect, project manager, and furniture and fixtures, according to Library Building Committee Co-Chair Ed Berlin.

In addition to a $9.4 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Greenfield Public Library Foundation had said it would contribute about $2 million, reducing the city’s cost to approximately $8.1 million. The project remains under budget, Boyer said this week. 

The opening date, however, is a slight delay from the anticipated June opening. Boyer said she wasn’t surprised by the later-than-expected opening, given certain, albeit few, supply chain issues and inspection requirements.  

“We’re still waiting for some network equipment,” she said, noting that barring delays in the arrival of bricks, this was the only supply chain issues experienced throughout the project. “This was the only one that impacted timing [of the opening].”

The building was designed with an eye toward accessibility, she said, something the current library lacks in many respects. Rather than placing the elevator near the back of the building, for example, it is centrally located and aligns with the main staircase. The front check-out desk is dual-height to accommodate wheelchair users, and stacks are spaced further apart than they are in the current library, allowing wheelchairs to rotate between the rows. 

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“We wanted people in wheelchairs to have the same browsing experience,” she said.

Furnished with seating and desks, the only missing element of the 26,800-square-foot library as of this week was the 40,000 books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks and reference books. Moveable stacks have been positioned in their respective rooms, computer tables await devices and patio equipment is prepared for placement outdoors. 

Glass windows and doors throughout the building will make for easier site lines, Boyer explained—helpful as staffing will remain almost identical to that of the current library, which is slightly less than half the square footage of the new one. Boyer said she only requested an additional part-time employee in the fiscal year 2024 budget. 

The new library also has two public meeting rooms available for reservation after hours, several meeting and study rooms, a laptop vending machine, two makerspace rooms for adult and children’s crafts, a cafe-like setup near the front entrance with a vending machine managed by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and a local history room, the contents for which are housed in the current library’s attic for the time being.

“We’ve not had a local history room in a long time,” Boyer said. “This will make a lot of people happy.”

Standing in the foyer, Boyer said the new library will offer a host of capabilities not afforded by the current one. 

“I’m real pleased,” Boyer said. “Hopefully, everyone can find a place here that suits them.”

During the transition when the library is closed, patrons can continue to use the website, greenfieldpubliclibrary.org, to access online resources such as Libby, Hoopla and Kanopy, as well as Consumer Reports, archives of the Greenfield Recorder and the online subscription to the New York Times. The staff is also preparing a number of online, virtual programs.

Patrons will be able to reach staff by email, phone and the ‘contact us’ form on the website, although response time may be slowed while computers and phones are being put in place. 

An earlier version of this story had the incorrect date for the Leavitt Hovey House celebration. The event will take place June 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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