Shutesbury library lands $10K accessibility grant

M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury.

M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-17-2024 12:01 PM

SHUTESBURY — A project to improve accessibility for patrons at the current Shutesbury library and the new library building that will break ground in June is being supported by a $10,000 grant from the American Library Association.

Library Director Mary Anne Antonellis announced that the M.N. Spear Memorial Library was one of 310 across the country that will be able to create a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere for residents with disabilities by using money from Libraries Transforming Communities: Accessible Small and Rural Communities, an initiative of the American Library Association in collaboration with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries.

The initiative provides community engagement and accessibility resources to libraries to help their staffs better serve people with disabilities and engage and welcome neurodiverse community members.

Antonellis said in a statement that she and her staff are proud to be selected.

“This grant will allow our library to get to know our residents with disabilities better,” Antonellis said. “And it will help us furnish and equip our new library, enhancing the welcoming and improved space our community has been working on for so many years.”

As part of the grant, library staff will take an online course in how to lead conversations and will then host a conversation with residents about how to best serve neurodiverse children.

Neurodiverse community members and their families will be encouraged to participate in the project by suggesting and commenting on various aspects, including programming opportunities, as well as the choice of equipment and furniture for the new library. That will help create spaces, collections and ongoing programs tailored to the needs of neurodiverse individuals.

Construction of the 4,400-square-foot building, at a cost of about $8.55 million, is set to begin this spring at 66 Leverett Road and open in July 2025.

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The town was awarded a state Small Library Pilot Project grant in the spring of 2022. That $5.64 million grant is being supplemented with $2.44 million from the town, approved at Town Meeting and a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion vote, and various other sources.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.