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Weather Can't Dampen Enthusiasm About New Library


  More than 100 people stood out in a cold rain Monday for a groundbreaking ceremony for the first new library in Springfield, Massachusetts in 20 years.  

   A full-service branch library had been on the wish lists of many residents of the city’s East Forest Park neighborhood for at least 50 years, so in spite of the weather people came to celebrate.

  " Although it is raining, this is an amazingly beautiful day," said Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, who MC’d the event.

    As people cheered, she said the city can be justifiably proud of its public library system, which includes a large main library downtown and nine branch libraries.

     The new building will provide a permanent home for the East Forest Park Branch Library, which is the second-busiest branch in the city, despite its current location in a cramped strip mall storefront. With 17,000 square feet of space, the new library will be four-times the size of the existing facility.

   14-year-old Elizabeth Willingham said she loves to read books and is excited that her neighborhood will soon have a new library.

  "I enjoy that we have a library, but it is very small and doesn't have a lot of resources, so I am glad we are getting a new one," she said.

    In addition to more space for books and other media collections, the new library will have dozens of computer stations, collaborative work and study areas, dedicated spaces for children and young adults, and a community room.

   City Library Director Molly Fogarty said the plans also call for an outdoor patio area and 45 parking spaces.

  " We will have the latest and the best of everything," said Fogarty.

   In 2017, Springfield received a $4.9 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to pay for half the construction costs of the new library.  Chairman Richard Ochsenbein said the ceremonial groundbreaking is a “major milestone.”

   The library is being constructed on Surrey Road adjacent to the Mary Dryden Elementary School and Pope Francis High School which was built on the site of the old Cathedral High School that was destroyed by the 2011 tornado.

  Mayor Domenic Sarno said the new library is a testament to the people in the neighborhood  who chose to stay and rebuild after the disaster seven years ago.

"It was because of your resiliency and your passion that kept us going 24-7 to make sure we would rebuild bigger, better and stronger," said Sarno.

  City officials say the construction of the library is scheduled to be completed by November 2019.

  A capital campaign to raise $2 million to equip and furnish the library is halfway to its goal, according to members of the Springfield Library Foundation.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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