SPRINGFIELD – East Forest Park
received its first branch library in 2000 by converting a former video store. Now, the community can start planning for an upgrade.
Springfield City Library received a $50,000 Planning and Design Grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) to get the ball rolling on a new East Forest Park branch.
“A new library would give us ability for more collection, computers, community space, which we don’t have right now,” Library Director Molly Fogarty said. “The money will go towards hiring an architect to prepare a schematic design for the new library, an independent cost estimator and an engineer to [conduct] a site evaluation. We’re going to be working very closely with the community so the library will have elements important to Forest Park.”
One such element is making the library a part-time community center, which will be available even when the library is closed.
“A community space where the community can come together for events even when the library isn’t open [is] really important. [It’s] a place where everyone can go,” Fogarty said.
A new building will also help the library with their increasing circulation, which has been rising since November, when the library changed its hours to be open six days a week instead of three.
“[East Forest Park] is one of our busiest branches. Since we’ve increased the hours in November, use has gone way up. From July 2013 to the end of May , 43,496 items were borrowed from East Forest Park, which is an 84 percent increase over last year at this time,” Fogarty explained.
MBLC Communications Specialist Celeste Bruno is excited that East Forest Park will be getting attention after passing the application process.
“The East Forest Park branch is a very well loved branch. The people love that branch and it’s nice to see some movement there,” Bruno said. “Independent reviewers go through [the applications] and make recommendations. The grant award is two-thirds of the submitted eligible costs [and] the cap was increased from $40,000 to $50,000 because the Board recognizes that the cost of doing this kind of planning has increased.”
Bruno continued, “Funding for the construction program comes from a bond bill from 2008, which was approved by the governor and state Legislature for capital projects across the state.”
The MBLC requires up to $25,000 in local match funding, which must be secured by Jan. 31, 2015, if the library wants to accept the grant.
Twenty out of the 28 libraries that applied were awarded a grant, but that doesn’t mean the other eight are on their own.
“Even [though] there were communities that didn’t get grants, our consultants will still work with them,” Bruno said.
The process for the new library at East Forest Park is going to take two to three years before construction starts, but the grant is the first step and two possible sites have already been identified.
“[One is by] Nathan Bill Park on Plum Tree Road and [the other] on the grounds of the Mary Dryden School,” Fogarty said. “We are very pleased that we received the award [and] we are looking forward to working with the community to meet there needs.”