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Holyoke Public Library opens new renovated facility

Date: 11/1/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE – The newly renovated Holyoke Public Library is now open and Mayor Alex Morse called the facility “incredible.”

Morse and other public officials toured the library on Oct. 28. Matt Blumenfeld, the director of the campaign to raise the funds for the building, said the $14.5 million construction effort increased the amount of space from 10,000 square feet of useable space (out of 25,000 square feet) in the old building to 40,000 square feet.

The effort to bring a new library to Holyoke began in 2009, he noted, with the creation of feasibility studies. The project has taken 20 months to complete.

Blumenfeld said the library is now going through the process to be LEED Gold certified for its energy efficiency and is the first building in the city to meet that goal.

He said there was a “huge crowd” waiting for the opening of the library that morning. Before the library was closed and the collection moved to City Hall, Blumenfeld said there were about 100,000 visits annually. He expects that figure will increase to 250,000 visits.

The new building is a combination of new construction and the original library built in 1903. He said that while the old building had “good bones,” it was in “tough shape.” The exterior limestone on the original building was all re-touched and repaired, he added.

Visitors will immediately see the new orientation of the building. The original entrance faced maple Street, while the new entrance is now on Chestnut Street. Blumenfeld said the decision to change the entrance was to provide a catalyst for the redevelopment of Chestnut Street.

There is a renovated parking area next to the library as well as new spaces on Chestnut Street.

Walking inside the new entrance the circulation desk is to the left and the new community room is to the right. One of the suggestions made by the public was to have a community room that could be used when the rest of the library was closed and this room was designed to that specification.

Off of the circulation desk is a room designed for teen visitors, with appropriate books and both personal and Apple computers to use.

In the center of this area are stairs that carry visitors into the first floor of the old building. The murals have been restored and what used to be the lobby and the circulation desk is now a reading area.

“We wanted to respect the past and show of the new,” Blumenfeld said. The skylights in the building have been restored because “we wanted to get as much natural light as possible,” he added.

Off of this area are book stacks and the periodical room.

The historical collection has moved back to its original location on the second floor. Much of the collection is now in a climate-controlled storage area in the basement.

Also on the second floor of the older building is a new technology area with both personal and Apple computers. The area is divided into two rooms so classes can be conducted at the same time visitors are using the computers, Blumenfeld explained.

On the second floor and third floors of the new addition are the reference and the children’s areas. There are also quiet study rooms that visitors can schedule and use.

Morse said the improvements have “been a long time coming.” He added the library has been “a great equalizer” by providing access to information to people of all backgrounds.

“This will make Holyoke a better place,” he said.

Blumenfeld said the library was actually called “The People’s College” when it opened and will revert to that name in the future.

The Library will return to its customary Fall/Winter schedule of Monday through Thursday and will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A grand opening program is scheduled for Nov. 22 at 11 a.m.