By Kate Tobiasson, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Ray Bradbury once said, “Without libraries, what do we have? We have no past and no future.” Life in 2018 is flooded with technology, but more than ever, communities need libraries. Maureen Ambrosino, Director of the Westborough Public Library, is avidly working to expand the town library in every sense of the word.
“People who don’t often use libraries will say that people don’t read books anymore. Our statistics show that books are still being checked out regularly; our circulation is up this year. Books are still our brand, but they are not all that we do,” Ambrosino said. “Good libraries in 2018 are a place to gather; there is no charge to be here- it is a place where everyone is welcome. On Saturdays, when people are waiting in line at 10 a.m. for when we open our doors, this shows the relevancy of the library.”
With the new season, the library will reintroduce Sunday hours, opening from 1-5 p.m. On a given weekend, the Westborough Library is filled to the brim with people studying, using the internet and reading books. This building is at the hub of the community.
In recent years, it has come to the town’s attention that a library expansion is needed.
“We had to decide if it would be better to stay here and expand or to start new. The community spoke out loudly and decisively that they wanted us to stay here,” said Ambrosino. “It will be a big challenge for the designer to renovate and expand on the site when we don’t have any more land.”
Last year, the library applied for a state grant to expand the library. Sixth on the waitlist, the Westborough Public Library hopes to begin renovations in 2020.
“After we receive the grant money from the state, we will have to go to town meeting to get approval for the rest of the funding for the project. From there, it will be about three more years until the building is completed,” explained Ambrosino, undaunted by the rigmarole involved with such a large scale expansion project.
“In addition to the town’s excitement about the expansion, it is wonderful to see the increase in circulation, because people are checking out books and other items. Libraries around the country now have a ‘library of things’ that is very popular. In Westborough, we loan out things like a telescope, a sewing machine and Wi-Fi hotspots. If you’re going away on a trip or if you’ve just moved to town and haven’t had internet connected yet, you can use these hot-spots out to connect. We say that we loan the internet out. It’s not just about books anymore!” Ambrosino laughed.
This year, the library has worked to expand services and to offer new programs for all age groups in town. They’re also working to develop their role as the hub of the community, and to pop up at community events. Using a 10 x 10 tent and folding tables, the library is getting out into the town of Westborough.
“We bring books, CD’s, DVDs, and items from our library of things. People can check them out right there. If they don’t have a library card, we can set them up with one. It is a great way for the library to share with the community all of the wonderful things that we offer,” said Ambrosino, her eyes shining with excitement. “We brought these ‘Pop Up Libraries’ to the weekly movies that we hosted. We put out a question on the Facebook page about other events that we could host a Pop Up Library and we’re looking forward to promoting some of these events, but also just popping up!”
An expansion of the library is wonderful for the town, but takes financial support. Recently, the Westborough Public Library Foundation was formed as a nonprofit to help raise funds to support the library’s development. Over the summer, the Newcomers Club held a yard sale over the summer, and the proceeds were donated to the foundation. This was the inaugural $300 donation in helping the library reach their million dollar goal.
The Westborough Public Library has deep roots in town. It is a place where residents go to gather, talk and learn. It is an essential part of the community, and these new expansions show the promise of an exciting new future.