Frequently Asked Questions
About a Possible Library/Community Center Facility in Acushnet
Why is this project needed?
The Russell Memorial Library, at its current location, is no longer able to adequately service the Town of Acushnet.
- The disabled cannot use the library, and the elderly use it with some difficulty. The building is neither handicapped accessible nor ADA compliant.
- There is no space to house the quantities of materials needed for basic library services for the current population, and no room for growth.
- The interior space offers library users no quiet or private areas for study or reading.
- The staff lacks privacy, work space, and storage space.
- Materials for youth of all ages—toddler through high school—are crowded into one room. Young adult library users do not have space to do homework or meet friends. Young children do not have chairs sized for them. Parents often sit on the floor with their children.
- There is limited parking.
The Acushnet Community Center is operated solely by volunteers who have to raise enough money each month to cover operating costs and other expenses. Since it is not town funded, its longevity is not secure or guaranteed. If this project does not move forward, the Center will close its doors to the community at the end of June 2013. The Acushnet Community Center hosts meetings, programs and services for adults and children not offered elsewhere in Town.
- Middle School Dances for Acushnet youth
- Girl Scouts and AYAA meetings
- Self-Defense Classes
- Playgroup for young mothers and their children
- Quilting and Bingo Groups for Seniors
- Blood Drives
- Math Tutoring
- Other public meetings and events, such as the Board of Appeals and Voting for Precincts 1 and 2
What is the scope of this project?
The former Howard School building will be expanded from 5,000 square feet to a total of 14,000 square feet of usable space. In addition to keeping and renovating the existing building, a new two floor addition will be put on the back, allowing for adequate room to provide improved and expanded services to all residents. The architect’s rendering of the main entrance of the building and the site layout are on the front side of the page. The site around the building will accommodate a total of 36 parking spaces, the addition of a drive-up book drop, and landscaping to blend into the surrounding neighborhood.
What are the benefits of this project?
The result would be a facility that will meet the needs of our community for generations to come. In a new location at the heart of the community with:
- Room for library collections to meet growing and new demands.
- A Children’s Room with adequate space for early learning programs that serve our young children and an expanded Young Adult area to encourage teens to use the library and indulge in the joys of reading, or gather to work on school projects.
- Comfortable seating and quiet study rooms.
- Safe off-street parking for vehicles and drive-by book drop that will be open 24/7.
- More computers for public use and public instruction.
- Space to display the works of local artists.
- Improved work areas for staff and volunteers.
- A community program room with seating to accommodate up to one hundred and fifty people for lectures, concerts and other programs, as well as acting as a voting location for the Town.
- Complete handicap accessibility.
How will the project be funded?
All groups involved with this project feel strongly that any necessary town funding should be kept as low as possible. Therefore, the Town applied for, and was awarded a Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) grant, totaling $3,189,536 for the Library/Community Center Project. This grant will help keep the town aspect of the funding to less than half the cost of the project. However, some funding from the town will still be necessary (about 46%). Town voters will be asked to appropriate $2.9M to cover the local match needed for the renovation and expansion project.
Individual taxpayer cost will be based on home value. ($0.20 per $1,000 of value) 44% of the homes in Acushnet are valued between $125,000-200,000. Their annual cost will be approx $30-40, or $8-10 per quarterly tax bill. Additional funding sources will be identified including other grant sources, private donations, as well as library trust funds earmarked for a new facility to help curb the cost to the taxpayer.
What is the timing for this project?
Acushnet has until June 30, 2013 to secure its local funding and sign a contract with the state for the grant award. Securing local funding will involve a spending article at Town Meeting on Monday, May 20, 2013 and a follow-up debt-exclusion question on the ballot for the election taking place on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Should the town residents approve this funding and all phases of design and construction go according to schedule, then the building would be complete sometime in the Fall of 2015.
How can I learn more about the project?
- Read the detailed Library Building Program
- Visit the Acushnet Public Library and Community Center project page
- Submit questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Questions about the Public Library and the Project
Does Acushnet really need a bigger library? Do people still use the library? Everything is on the internet…
Actually, library use has been rising steadily since the advent of the Internet. Even more surprisingly, circulation of books—both adult and juvenile—continues to rise. Library cardholders in Acushnet checked out over 48,000 items in 2012, a 75% increase since 2006. We don’t expect the book to die off completely in the near future, and even digital formats are being made available for “check out”.
Libraries exist to serve the entire community, including those who cannot afford the internet at home or a new e-book reader, MP3 player, etc. Modern libraries recognize that the role of the Internet has grown, which is why they provide free access to individuals who do not have a computer or broadband connection at home. In addition, librarians provide essential help to patrons in how to use computers to access information. More than 1,900 people accessed the Internet through computers at the Russell Memorial Library last year.
Library use is changing dramatically from a “warehouse of books” to a community space where people go to meet, enjoy a presentation, work on a project, etc. A modern, small-town library provides meeting space for community groups, organizations and businesses; children's and teen programs; adult and senior citizens' programs; and audio and video resources. Those types of activities require quite a bit of space. Moreover, these programs must be in a building that provides access for the handicapped and that meets Federal, State and local fire and other codes for public buildings.The Russell Memorial Library served more than 300 users a week, for a total of over 17,000 people last year.
Why should we have a library in Acushnet when there are other libraries nearby?
Libraries pride themselves in their willingness to share resources and to assist library users from neighboring communities; however, there is a limit to the amount of service we can expect to receive from other libraries because they were not built with the needs of our community in mind. Resource sharing is based upon the notion of reciprocity, and strengthening library service in Acushnet will help to assure that our current high level of cooperation and sharing can continue. In addition, the presence of a library in a community says a lot about that community. A library reinforces the importance of education and culture to our children, and it is an important medium for transmitting and sharing that culture. And finally, the library is great for business – an improved library facility in Acushnet could be an important factor in securing the economic health of the community.
I don’t use the library or community center, how will I benefit?
The quality of the library, schools, parks and town services influence the overall quality of life in a community and the market value of homes. This improved facility will have something for everyone, so even those who don’t currently use the library or community center may take advantage of some of the new programs and services that will be provided in the future!
Why can’t you just fix up the existing library building? Can’t the library just move into the Community Center now?
The Town would need to invest a significant amount of money to address code and accessibility issues and to upgrade the existing library building. This option would not address the overcrowded conditions, would result in no service enhancements and would leave the library far short of the space requirements called for in the Building Program. There is also no space available for increased parking at the existing library site. Most patrons already drive to the library rather than walk, especially during the winter months. A slightly longer drive to an improved facility would seem to be a minor inconvenience for patrons when compared to the amenities and enhancement in services they would encounter.
If the library were to relocate to the Community Center, there would no longer be adequate space available for the Community Center’s programs, or for voting and various town government meetings. In addition, the floors of a library must be able to support heavy loads (books weigh a lot!). The Community Center was built as a school, so the floors as they are today would not be strong enough to accommodate the current library collection. The renovations needed to bring the existing Howard School building up to code to serve as a modern day library are estimated at approx. $2M. Once the library moves its existing collection into the building when the repair work is done, the space would already be full. In order to lay out the current services in a way that meets the handicap accessibility codes, it requires all of the space available in the building (approx. 5,000 sq ft). Opening day, the building is to capacity; there is no room to expand or mprove library services and there is not adequate space available for the Community Center’s programs. The proposed design represents the best use of taxpayer dollars for what it provides to the Town, now and in the future.
Will a larger library be more expensive to maintain?
Yes and no. Total maintenance costs for a larger building are typically higher than maintenance costs for a smaller building. However, the new Acushnet Library/Community Center will not require costly, unanticipated repairs and maintenance associated with the 83 year old Russell Memorial Library and 94 year old Howard School buildings.
The new Library has been designed in a way that will allow it to be efficiently supervised by the same size staff as the current building. It is an open floor plan that has sightlines from the main circulation desk to the outer points of the building. In addition to improving the organization of the Library resources, the design will increase staff efficiency; we will be able to open the building with the existing staff. Because a good amount of the library operational budget is committed to personnel costs, keeping the staffing level unchanged will keep the increase in operating costs for the new library down to a minimum.
We will need additional funds to cover the anticipated increase in costs for energy. It will be a larger building than what we currently have, so it will require more money to heat and cool the space. The current library is only 3,600 square feet and we currently spend $7,500 a year on energy. This will need to increase this line to about $30,000 a year just because it will be a larger space.
However, the building will receive LEED certification when it is complete. Along with this designation comes a Green Incentive Grant from the State in the amount of $100,000. These funds could be used to offset the increase in operating costs for a certain number of years. This Green Incentive Grant would allow the Town’s budget to grow over time. We would not need to see an increase in the budget to cover operating costs on day one.
Why doesn't Acushnet save resources by combining the school and public libraries?
School and public libraries have different missions and responsibilities. The public library provides a wide range of services and materials designed to enrich the lives of all community members, regardless of age--including senior citizens, parents with infants and toddlers, and other adults who may be uncomfortable or unwelcome in the school setting. A public library is open evenings, weekends and during the summer.
The school library functions as the resource center for the school. The materials in the school library support the school's curriculum and are selected at the appropriate reading level of the students in the school. School libraries are typically open only when classes are in session, and usually provide access only to school students, staff and parents.
What will happen to the current library building?
The Town, under the direction of the Board of Selectmen, will decide the future use of the present library building.