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City Poised For $18 Million Grant to Build Union Square Library

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners put a large Somerville library project on its list of priorities. If built, the Union Square library would replace the current Highland Avenue building.

Somerville is in line to get an $18 million grant from the state for a new main library in Union Square, the city announced Tuesday.

According to the announcement, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners added Somerville to its waiting list for a construction grant to build a new library.

Unlike a college admissions waiting list, the Board of Library Commissioners' list is more of a solid commitment, said Thomas Champion, a spokesperson for the city.

In order to receive the grant, Somerville must come up with a solid plan for funding the whole project, which is projected to cost $45 million.

The city will look at all options, including public-private partnerships, bonding and further grants, to come up with the money, said Champion.

If the project is eventually taken off the waiting for the $18 million, the city will have six months to demonstrate it can secure all the necessary fudning, he said.

Plans still developing

Then there's the question of where the new library will go. Champion said the current idea is to build it along Washington Street, next to the , around where is. Depending on where it's located, some things, such as Ricky's, might have to move, according to Champion.

However, he added it was "premature to talk about having to relocate anybody."

Double current library's size

The new library would more than double the footprint of the current main library on Highland Avenue, according to the announcement. It would include community meeting and exhibition space, study rooms, an outdoor courtyard and terraces, children's play areas, a 200-seat auditorium, a cafe and retail space.

The new facility would replace the as Somerville's main library, Champion said. He added there were no concrete plans for what would become of the current library, but said it could become a resource for or , both of which are next door.

The city's announcement said the city's proposal to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners came after a series of public meetings in 2010 and an online survey that received more than 700 responses.

The Somerville Board of Aldemen issued an order in May 2011 approving preliminary plans for the library and authorizing the Somerville Board of Library Trustees to seek grants.

Part of developing Union Square 

"This generous award represents a major vote of confidence in our community-based planning process and our long-term commitment to maintaining a vibrant and creative library program," Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said in the statement, adding it demonstrates "the state's support for our community, and to the ongoing developmnent of Union Square."

"This is a rare opportunity that Somerville has been given—to come together and build an iconic civic building—a new main library for all residents where they can meet, explore, learn, and dream," said Maria Carpenter, director of libraries, in a statement.

The Board of Library Commissioners publicly issued its new list of grant communities in May. Champion said the city waited off on announcing the news until it was further along in the planning process for fiscal year 2013.

Somerville approved a significant rezoning of Union Square in 2009 in anticipation of the Green Line Extension and transit-oriented growth it might bring. A large Union Square library would likely be a centerpiece of new development in the area.

Patrick August 22, 2012 at 03:51 PM
@Wenzday - Interesting suggestions on "modernization"! Have you talked with any librarians lately about their digital collections? If you have, or when you do, you will hear that such digital collections are most often available from vendors as subscription. Meaning the library will have to keep renewing it's subscription from one contract to the next in order to sustain access to books it may have once had on the shelf. The librarians will also tell you that from one contract to the next, the vendors' prices *never* go down. The librarians with whom you speak might then remind you that this change primarily seems to serve patrons who already own the technology (ereaders, tablets, etc.) used to access the digital collection. Which is all fine and good as long as the city is quite certain that the *vast* majority of library patrons already have that technology, or that the city is prepared to provide that technology to the patrons for free. Otherwise, the library would be admitting defeat in its mission to provide "materials and services that meet the educational, cultural, recreational and informational needs of all people in the community." See: http://www.somervillepubliclibrary.org/aboutus/mission.html In both initial capital outlay, and long-term costs, going digital should not be considered as the cheap option. It has many benefits, but that is not necessarily one of them. You're welcome.
wenzday August 22, 2012 at 04:15 PM
i appreciate that these problems currently exist. However, i believe these problems can be solved. free the information. dismantle intellectual property laws.
Patrick August 22, 2012 at 04:42 PM
While I sympathize with your position to an extent, it seems like an untenable position from which to plan a municipal expenditure.
wenzday August 22, 2012 at 09:35 PM
well they could just leave the brick and mortar library as is and use the 18 million to lobby congress for a change in copyright laws so they can "build" a modern system of accessing information (obvs j/k ;)
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