Bids are being sought to build a new state-funded branch library in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is a project that is moving forward after decades of discussion.
A stand-alone library building is something residents of Springfield’s East Forest Park neighborhood have desired for at least 40 years. Now a groundbreaking is just a few months away.
Construction bids for the estimated $9.5 million project are due in City Hall by 2 p.m. on July 25th. City officials are eyeing a September groundbreaking ceremony and a ribbon-cutting in 2019.
City Library Director Molly Fogarty describes the proposed new library as a “model for the future.” Plans include space for book and media collections, a reference and research area with 20 public computer terminals, quiet study rooms, a large community meeting room, and separate areas for children and teen programming.
At nearly 17,000 square feet, the new one-story building would be four times the size of the neighborhood’s current branch library that operates out of a strip mall storefront.
"The current space is insufficient," said Fogarty. " It is our second-busiest branch but we don't have room for programming. We dont' have a good children's area. We don't have space for collections."
Forgarty said the plans call for using natural building materials, large windows to let in sunlight, an outdoor patio and parking space for 45 cars.
Plans for the new library finally came together about a year ago when Springfield was awarded a $4.9 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners – one of only nine communities to receive state funds for library construction projects in 2017. The grants are only available every five years or so.
The Springfield School Committee voted to turn over land for the new library next to the Mary Dryden Veterans Memorial School on Surrey Road.
Springfield City Councilor Tim Allen said a new library was made a priority project in the master recovery plan following the June 2011 tornado.
"Those planning processes that sometimes sit on shelves and people complain about it, well this one didn't," said Allen.
The Springfield Library Foundation last fall launched a campaign to raise $2 million to support the new branch library. The privately-raised funds are expected to be used to buy furniture and supplies.