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Reconstruction of Holyoke Public Library reaches midpoint

Date: 9/12/2012

By Carley Dangona

carley@thereminder.com

HOLYOKE — Town residents and political officials marked the topping off of the Holyoke Public Library (HPL) with a ceremony Sept. 7 that highlighted the midpoint of construction with the raising of the final beam of framework, decorated with an American flag and a fir tree.

"Today marks the halfway point of construction and the achievement of meeting 90 percent of the fundraising goal for this project," City Councilor Aaron Vega, emcee of the event, said. "It also is a signal of the city's commitment to downtown and education."

Vega explained that much of the old building would be preserved. "The new building will maintain 70 to 80 percent of the original building," he said. "The design keeps the earmarks of the building by incorporating them in the inside d├ęcor of the structure."

Terry Plum, president of the Library Board of Directors, explained the significance of the topping off. "This is similar to ship-naming ceremonies," he explained. "It's a ceremony handed down through generations."

He added, "As a librarian, I appreciate that there's no books involved in this ceremony — buildings are about community. It's also about the builders thank you to all the builders."

Mayor Alex Morse also attended the celebration and thanked all involved in making the project a reality. He commended the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) for their diligence and dedication.

"Thank you for never forgetting to believe in the importance of a public library," Morse said. "I'm incredibly proud to be the mayor of a community that recognizes this."

Michael Baron, part-time reference librarian and temporary archivist for the HPL expressed the joy of this renovation. "It's like a dream come true," he said. "The original name for the library was the 'people's college,' because it's where people of all ages learn on their own through workshops, meetings and activities."

Architect James Alexander of Finegold Alexander + Associates Inc. offered his definition of a library. "Libraries are so much more than books," he stated. "There where education happens, where community events happen."

Rep. John Olver was also present for the ceremony. "We're rebuilding Holyoke," he said. "You can hardly enter Holyoke these days, without passing one of the great projects [of improvement, occurring throughout]. I'm proud of the bipartisanship the close relationship [State] Sen. [Michael] Knapik and I had with this project."

MBLC commissioner Mary Kronholm commented on the role of her organization. "Libraries are our business," she said. "Libraries provide access to entertainment, to information, to the world — all at your fingertips. We've assisted with the building, renovation and addition to approximately 200 libraries and there are 19 more ready to build. Best wishes for a truly successful completion [to your library]."

Christine Alger, Friends of the HPL president, expressed the importance of this library. "This project has been in the works for decades," she explained. "It makes it [the construction process] that much more exciting. The current library stood for more than 100 years. I imagine that in another 100 years, they'll be facing the same task of renovation as we are now."

Alger added, "Many of the youth in this community don't have access to CDs, DVDs, books or computers. The renovated library will feature an expanded area for children and a space for teens. The access the new facility will provide will be life-changing for the kids in this community."

To track the progress of the HPL renovation via live, streaming video, visit www.holyokelibrary.org.