GRAFTON – The renovated Grafton Public Library marked its official grand opening with a ribbon cutting on Dec. 17.
“It’s definitely an exciting time for the Town of Grafton and our community,” said Doug Bowman, who is on the Grafton Library Planning and Building Committee. “We’ve been waiting for this moment, I think, for maybe 100 years. It’s definitely great.”
Grafton broke ground on the project about two years ago. In the meantime, while the project was under construction, the library moved its operations to a temporary space in North Grafton.
In its first month of reopening in its permanent space, the library has issued 186 new library cards and checked out over 10,000 items.
“The people of Grafton came together and made this place become a place that we go for educational purposes and more — that of discovery, curiosity, invention, reflection and celebrating the greatest gifts of humanity,” Select Board Chair Peter Carlson said. “I would like to say to the Grafton Public Library staff, the volunteers, and the people of Grafton: ‘Welcome home.’”
A number of officials joined Carlson in the ceremony, Dec. 17, including Congressman Jim McGovern, Sen. Michael Moore and Rep. David Muradian.
“Beth, in the nicest way, bugged the heck out of Sen. Moore and myself a million times to do everything we could to secure state funding,” Muradian said, referencing Library Director Beth Gallaway. “Beth, congratulations. You all did it.”
Muradian said he’s already used the library twice, joking that he and staff could work on it if he has any overdue books.
“You can tell a lot about what a community values by its library,” McGovern said. “Your investment in this major renovation speaks volumes about what Grafton is all about.”
The Grafton Public Library was built in 1927. According to the library’s website, the original library had a collection of 5,000 items to serve 6,000 Grafton residents. At that time, the library was only open for a few hours each week.
By 2016, there were over 45,000 items and over 77,000 visitors. Library staff said the space was only intended for 35,000 items.
The crews worked to incorporate parts of the old library into the new one. As such, one of the first things that individuals step on when they walk into the new library is marble from the stacks and floors of the old structure.
Library Trustee Aaron Vandesteen joked that the new library lost some of the “quirky” things that gave it character, such as a winding staircase to the first floor and a stage in the children’s room.
But it has gained a public meeting space, a large print reading room, a teen space and the retained Wheelock reading room.
“A library isn’t really a collection of things and parts that make up the building, but the community of people and memories that we create there,” Vandesteen said.
Gallaway shared stories of walking through the library following her first interview for the job there. She shared stories of how her daughter has grown up in the library.
Her first date with her now fiancé was supposed to be the day after the vote in 2017 to fund the project.
“I was so excited that I called him and was like, ‘You should come and celebrate with me now,’” Gallaway recalled.
Now, the pair will celebrate their wedding at the Grafton Common in the spring with a reception in the library.
There are still ways to contribute to the library now that it has celebrated its grand opening. Those can be found at http://www.friendsgpl.org/.