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Ashland Town Library outgrew its current space years ago

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

On March 11, voters in Ashland have an opportunity to make a good decision for Ashland's future. Warrant Article 3 is a bond issue for the purchase and renovation of the historic school building for the new home of the Ashland Town Library. The school has been beautifully restored, and brought up to all modern building, accessibility and life safety codes. With very little renovation, this building would usher in a new era for library services in Ashland.

The Ashland Town Library has been in existence for 142 years, the last 75 years located in the Scribner building at the corner of Main St. and Pleasant St. While it is a very good location, the library outgrew the space years ago. Parking has been an issue, as well as accessibility and life-safety codes. Books are stacked on any flat surface, and books that are still popular and useful must be removed when new books are purchased. There is very little space for quiet reading or studying, and no meeting space to speak of.

Libraries are a vital resource in communities large and small. Libraries level the technological playing field, providing access to technology and the internet for those who may not be able to afford personal devices. In the last three years, the circulation numbers have increased at the Ashland Town Library by 23 percent, and 16 percent more people have visited the library.

The old school was built in 1877-78, and served as a school for Ashland's children until 1990. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many Ashland residents have fond memories of their time spent in the classrooms of the building.

The building fell into disrepair until 2008 when it was purchased from the school district by Tri County Community Action Program. That organization spent $1.25 million to restore the building to its former glory, install up-to-date heating and cooling systems, and bring it up to modern code standards. TCCAP won a Merit Award for Excellence in Architecture Design for the work by Ashland architects Samyn-D'Elia.

By moving the library to the school building, the residents of Ashland will benefit in many ways. The proximity to the current elementary school means that children will be within a short walk of the library for in-school visits or after-school activities. The Children's Room would at least triple in size, allowing for more children to attend story times in a comfortable setting.

There would be room for all collections to be housed properly and allow room for growth. There are two rooms that would be designated for private study space, for tutors and others who need quiet space. There would be ample room for public computers. The current library has four computers in cramped quarters.

Teens would have their own space, and there would be a designated Special Collections area for local historic documents and rare books. There would be space for comfortable armchairs for quiet reading, and tables for group study space.

One of the best features of the school is the attractive third floor meeting space. This is a large open space, with great views of the town. This space would be available to town government and community groups, something that is sorely needed in town.

Of course all of this comes at a price. An offer has been made to TCCAP and accepted, for $850,000 to purchase the building. This is 68 percent of what they paid for the renovation, and provides almost move-in quality accommodations. Another $100,000 would be needed for minor construction (a circulation desk, security issues, and other minor adjustments), and furnishing the new building. What the town would get in return would be the pride of ownership of the beautiful and historic building, and a modern, up to date, well-situated library. We urge the voters of Ashland to vote yes on Warrant article 3.

Ashland Town Library Board of Trustees
Alice Staples
Lynn Davis
David Ruell
Mardean Badger