By Lauren Schiffman, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Renovations to and expansions of the Westborough Public Library will happen sooner than expected, according to Library Director Maureen Amyot.
Funding from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners was originally expected beginning in 2023. However, Amyot expects it to begin either this summer or next.
This is welcome news, as the state had put a cap on funding. Amyot is expecting to hear this spring whether the funding cap will be increased. If it is, Westborough Public Library expects to receive $1.88 million, the first annual round of funding that will go toward the total cost of the proposed $23.9 million building project. The library will receive five annual payments totaling $9.4 million.
While the 112-year-old library has needed significant repairs, the decision not to move forward with them was strategic.
“We’re band aiding it,” Amyot said. “We want to spend our money wisely.”
Proposed changes to the library include three stories that will add about 16,000-square-feet.
The “beautiful front and historic part of the library,” Amyot said, will remain. The 1980 addition, which houses circulation and the collection for adults, will be removed, and the children’s room will be relocated to the renovated third floor.
The children’s room will feature lower shelves; interactive play areas to stimulate brain development, sensory and motor skills; ambient light; and books displayed face-out for children to easily view them. These proposed designs will use principles of brain development to “get (the children) off to a good start with our programming and our spaces,” Amyot said.
A story time room will be constructed, as well as an area to promote early literacy among infants and preschoolers before they enter the school system.
“Libraries are such a great source for that, and we want to… designate space,” Amyot said.
Staff offices and work space will be added to the third floor, as will the local history room.
“We wanted our history to remain in the historic part of the building,” Amyot said.
“We’ve been really fortunate to have residents give us… amazing treasures of Westborough history. We want to make sure all those things are stored appropriately,” she added.
The main floor will still house most of the collection for adults, but staff space will be relocated, and a digital media lab and several study rooms will be added.
The teen zone, currently on the main floor, will move to the lower level and be “significantly larger” than the current teen area. She envisions collaborative work spaces, computers and comfortable seating areas.
The lower level meeting room will be enlarged and its capacity increased.
Each of the three levels will have two handicap-accessible, gender-neutral restrooms with changing tables. Currently, there are two bathrooms on the lower level.
The Parkman Street entrance will be reconstructed, and an external courtyard with a sitting area will feature a donor wall. It signifies, Amyot said, that “we lean on our donors, and our donors are there to support us.”
Finally, the new roof lines will all complement each other.
Once notification comes in that funds are available, the library will have six months to secure local approval. Amyot said that while these changes were presented to the town in 2017, “we want to make sure… that we are really doing what the community wants.” She hopes to secure the town’s approval at Fall Town Meeting in 2020 or 2021.
Once approved, the project will move into the approximately year-long design and development stage. Construction will follow, during which time the library will move to a temporary space not yet determined. The project is slated for completion about four years after it’s approved.
Although part of the funding application process included identifying alternative locations for the library, Amyot said that feedback indicated that Westborough residents felt strongly that the library remain downtown.
“That’s what I was secretly hoping for,” she added. “It’s really special that this library was built as a library in 1908. It you went to the library in Westborough, you came to 55 West Main. It’s really special. I want that to always be where residents come to the library.”