DATE: January 28, 2014
Athol Celebrates New Library
It was standing room only as the community of Athol gathered on January 25, 2014 to celebrate the dedication of the renovated and expanded Athol Public Library. "This library represents a milestone in the revitalization of the downtown," Athol Town Manager Michael Szlosek said. "It will serve as a cultural center for the entire North Quabbin Region. This will be a place that is full of life."
The project, which is part of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, was awarded a state-funded grant totaling $4,572,147 in July 2011 for this $8,601,300 library. In her address to the crowd, Commissioner Alice Welch thanked the residents of Athol for supporting the project. "The original 1918 Athol Public Library was built with the help of philanthropist and industrial titan Andrew Carnegie, but this is the building you helped to build, because of your show of support for your library as residents, voters, volunteers and contributors," Welch said.
State Senator and long-time library supporter Stephen Brewer was also in attendance. "2014 is the year that Athol turns the corner," he said. "In building this library, you not only improve the lives of every resident today, but generations to come will also benefit."
The project renovated the original library building and added nearly 16,000 square feet of new space, making the new Athol Public Library truly a place for learning, discovery, collaboration, and contemplation. The new library is fully accessible and has a vibrant and spacious children's room, space that teenagers can claim as their own, a large and well equipped community meeting room, quiet study and conference rooms, and technology sufficient to meet the demand for access to electronic information as well as personal computing. It also has a local history room that preserves the history and culture of the town.
"This library connects the disconnected," State Representative Denise Andrews said. "Some kids can't afford a computer so they come here. Some don't have heat, so they come here. Some don't have a safe, quiet place to do homework, so they come here."
Building a sustainable, environmentally-friendly library was a priority for the community of Athol. The library is seeking platinum (the highest level) of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. If it is successful, it will be one of the first platinum LEED certified libraries in the nation. It will also be eligible for additional funding through the MBLC's Green Library Incentive.
The ceremony ended with a special tribute to Library Director Deb Blanchard. A plaque recognizing her efforts was hung in the new library entrance. "It was through Deb's vision, her perseverance and her tenacity that this project has come to fruition. Well done, Deb," Library Trustee Chair Margaret Young said.
The Athol Public Library is one of several Massachusetts Public Library Construction (MPLCP) projects recently completed with grant assistance from the MBLC. Westwood Public Library and Millis Public Library opened in September. Projects in East Boston, Foxborough, Granby, and Holyoke celebrated openings in November. The average grant award for MPLCP projects is 50% of the total eligible costs. There are library construction projects currently underway in Eastham, Edgartown, Everett, Framingham, Salisbury, South Hadley, Reading, West Springfield, West Tisbury, Shrewsbury, and Scituate. Nine communities are on a waiting list for funding.
Funding for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program was authorized by Governor Deval Patrick and the Legislature in the General Governmental Needs Bond Bill in 2008. The Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program was first funded in 1987. Since then the program has assisted hundreds of communities in building new libraries or in renovating and expanding existing libraries. For more information about the program, please visit the MBLC's website.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.