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New Holyoke library project begins construction

Date: 11/22/2011

Nov. 23, 2011

By Katelyn Gendron

Assistant Managing Editor

HOLYOKE — The dirt was ceremoniously thrown to the wind on Nov. 17 signifying the beginning of the 18-month, $14.5 million expansion of the Holyoke Public Library.

“We’ve waited more than 10 years for this day. Today, we say goodbye to the building as we know it. We’ll connect our past to our future with this historical renovation and expansion,” Library Director Maria Pagan told those at the groundbreaking ceremony in front of the building.

The expanded facility on Maple Street, which will open in 2013, will bring the 109-year-old library into the 21st century with free wireless Internet, more than 40 computers, study carrels, meeting rooms, a designated children's area and more, all within the 114,563 square-foot site. The library’s resources and its personnel have been moved to the Holyoke City Hall Auditorium, 536 Dwight St., until the project is completed.

“Access to information and technology is paramount to the 21st century workforce,” Mayor Elaine Pluta said.

“Many people have questioned the value of libraries; the libraries have proved their worth in this great recession,” State Sen. Michael Knapik said, noting that library patronage throughout the Commonwealth has increased during the current economic times.

More than 100,000 people use the Holyoke Public Library each year, Pagan noted, adding that her staff will maintain high-quality services patrons have come to expect while at the Dwight Street location.

Matt Blumenfeld, chair of the capital campaign, said there is still much work to be done to ready the library “for the next 100 years.” The campaign has just surpassed the $1.6 million mark of its $2.5 million fund-raising goal, he added.

“We’ve had more than 100 [financial] commitments to this project already. We still have a ways to go and I encourage everyone to dig deeply,” Blumenfeld said.

Funding for the new facility was also made possible through a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) and financing from the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program.

“The MBLC grant laid the foundation on which this project rests. Putting together the funding for this has been a difficult and terrific challenge,” Terry Plum, president of the Holyoke Library Board of Directors, said.

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