A fundraising campaign to support construction of a new public library in the largest city in western Massachusetts has received a major boost from one of the region’s largest employers.
The MassMutual Foundation has awarded $250,000 to the Springfield Library Foundation, which last fall launched a $2 million capital campaign to support a new branch library in the city’s East Forest Park neighborhood.
Dennis Duquette, President of the MassMutual Foundation, said a modern public library is a vital community resource.
"We hope this grant will inspire and stimulate other corporate givers to join us," Duquette said.
"We think it is very worthwhile. It is going to be a terrific thing for East Forest Park and an even better thing for the city of Springfield."
The library project was awarded a $4.9 million state grant last year – one of only nine projects in the state to receive funds last year from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The city committed matching funds for the project with the help of the library foundation.
Library Foundation President Pat Markey said the donation brings the organization’s Promise Realized Campaign “significantly closer” to the $2 million goal.
" We are so grateful to MassMutual for its endorsement of this project and its commitment to Springfield," said Markey.
The new library, with almost 17,000 square feet, will be four times the size of the current neighborhood branch library that operates from a leased storefront space in a shopping plaza. Despite the cramped quarters, it is the second-most utilized library branch in the city.
Plans for the new library call for more than 50 public computer terminals, separate program spaces for children, teenagers, and adults, and a community room.
Library Director Molly Fogarty said the plan is to go out to bid for the construction in May or June, have a groundbreaking in the fall, and open the doors to the public in 2019.
" We are really excited. We are well on our way," Fogarty said.
People in the East Forest Park neighborhood have long wanted a new library. City Councilor Tim Allen, who represents the neighborhood, said it was identified as a priority project in the 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 new library is being built on Surrey Road next to an elementary school that sustained damage in the tornado and was subsequently repaired and next to the new Pope Francis High School, which is being built on the site of the former Cathedral High School that was destroyed in the storm.