May 3, 2004

Vote Postponed On New Saxonville Library Plan

Framingham officials have withdrawn several Town Meeting articles related to constructing a new branch library in Saxonville, across from the current McAuliffe branch. The proposal will be resubmitted to fall Town Meeting, after more details are available about the project's cost, Library Director Tom Gilchrist told the MetroWest Daily News.

The existing branch is woefully inadequate to meet area demand. The small space is completely full -- library officials say that literally every time they want to buy a new book, they need to decide what book to discard in exchange. The building, not much larger than a trailer with a feel to match, was designed to hold 16,000 books and now has more than 70,000 books, videos and tapes. It is the busiest branch library in Massachusetts.

The state awarded a $1.6 million grant to Framingham for a new branch -- the first time the state has ever awarded such a grant for a branch library; but the town needs to come up with additional funds.

In addition to providing for adequate library services for the area -- according to current accepted standards, the branch needs to be tripled in size to serve its population -- the new branch would be an important asset to making the Saxonville area a more attractive community overall. Unlike the main library, the current tiny branch has no space for programs or community meetings. It is not an appealing gathering place or destination, as the main library is; it does not encourage lingering. The proposed new branch library -- within walking distance of a fair amount of moderate-income, multi-family housing -- would offer these important amenities to the area.

Current plans call for the new branch to be built across the street on land that is now part of the massive Pinefield shopping center parking lot (the town is still negotiating purchase terms for that property). That's yet another side benefit of the project -- that asphalt ocean is an unappealing, pedestrian-off-putting feature of the neighborhood. Having a library there should improve the intersection's pedestrian ambiance as well as safety. Hopefully, there would also be some kind of appealing pedestrian path -- not just uninterrupted blacktop -- connecting the library, its parking area and the shopping center behind it.

There are more details about the proposed new branch on the Framingham Library Web site.

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