|By Carley Dangona
A view of the future entryway of the West Springfield Public Library.
Photo courtesy of Centerbrook Architects and Planners
WEST SPRINGFIELD – As the $2 million fundraising goal of the West Side Story Campaign for the West Springfield Public Library (WSPL) approaches the halfway point, the Town Council will conduct a public hearing before considering a bond authorization of $2.676 million for the project.
The hearing will take place at the council meeting on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. in the second floor auditorium of the Town Hall, 26 Central St.
The groundbreaking for the $13.4 million project is anticipated to take place in the spring of 2014. The library will remain at 200 Park St., but will be expanded approximately 15,000 square feet.
Paul Flaherty of the WSPL Speakers Bureau, in charge of community outreach for the campaign, stated that as part of the public phase of the campaign, the bureau would make presentations to various service groups within the community.
“We want to try and engage the community in the whole project to have them rally around it. Every little bit helps,” he said.
Flaherty added that it is vital for residents to understand that the space constraints of the current site prompted the need for expansion.
Flaherty said the need for better handicap accessibility and a leaking roof were further reasons for the project. He said that keeping the library in its current footprint would “serve as an anchor for an increase of traffic [patronage] in the downtown area.”
Flaherty continued, “The project is long overdue. The facility is in dire need to be brought into current times.”
Flaherty said an open house would most likely be hosted in mid-November for the community to learn more about the project. In addition to service organizations, Flaherty would like to engage local book clubs that have “an inherent appetite for books and literature.”
One means of public participation the group is considering is to engage the School Department in the process. In other towns, Holyoke for instance, each school hosted its own fundraising event such as walk-a-thons and read-a-thons.
The efforts of the students would be commemorated with plaques hung in the library. Funds raised will be designated to the children’s room in WSPL.
According to Matthew Blumenfeld, West Side Story campaign manager, between $800,000 and $900,000 have been raised, which is 45 percent of the goal. Recent donations include a $125,000 pledge from Chicopee Savings Bank and a $125,000 combined donation from Richard Sullivan and Sullivan Paper.
“It’s been a long road thus far,” Blumenfeld said. He noted that the support of residents was key in the funding process. He said that donations could be spread over a five-year period or given in full.
He cited a community petition with 3,500 signatures as the reason the WSPL was able to retain the $6.2 million in funding from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners after the site for the project was changed to remain in its current footprint.
“People have been responding very generously,” Blumenfeld said. He explained that the campaign is in a “very quite phase” and will be moving to a “more public phase” over the next few months.
Blumenfeld said the Steering Committee has worked diligently to “get the word out about the project and to highlight the benefits of it to the community.”
For more information about the fundraising campaign, visit www.wspl.org. Those interested in making a pledge can call 736-4561, ext. 5.
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