State grants to provide windfall for South Deerfield, Orange libraries

  • Tilton Library in South Deerfield announced it received a $3.94 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners during its Monday Night Music concert on July 11. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Gordon Kramer performs Monday at Tilton Library in South Deerfield, where it was announced that the library has received a $3.94 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Eric Phelps, Tilton Library’s fundraising consultant, speaks to the crowd gathered on the lawn of the South Deerfield library Monday evening as Library Director Candace Bradbury-Carlin stands at right. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • A water-damaged wall and window shades in Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Library Director Jessica Magelaner looks down at the crowded stacks at Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Jessica Magelaner, director of Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange, in front of a water-stained wall. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2022 11:25:36 AM
Modified: 7/14/2022 11:25:21 AM

Between sets of music on Tilton Library’s lawn on Monday, Library Director Candace Bradbury-Carlin and several trustees took the stage to share some long-awaited news for library patrons and Deerfield residents.

After sending in a grant application to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) back in 2017, Tilton Library in South Deerfield was finally awarded a $3.94 million grant on July 7, which will help fund an extensive expansion and renovation project the library has been eyeing for more than a decade.

On top of Tilton’s grant, Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange was awarded a nearly $5.22 million construction grant from the MBLC.

Wheeler Memorial Library

Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange was the recipient of a $5.22 million grant from the MBLC to undertake a full renovation of its own, as it addresses a leaky roof, peeling plaster and lack of accessibility. The library opened in the early 1900s, and Director Jessica Magelaner said little work has been done in the more than 100 years since.

“It has not been substantially renovated since then,” she said. “We just want to make it a modern library.”

Beyond basic repairs and renovations, Magelaner explained the plan is to enhance accessibility to the 49 East Main St. library, create a children’s room on the second floor and add, “of course, more than one bathroom.”

“It’s been a long waiting process,” she said.

Wheeler Memorial Library now has six months to match a portion of the grant, which has yet to be calculated because its architect is also re-tabulating a cost estimate. The price tag of the project was originally estimated to be about $9.9 million.

“That’s going to be our biggest hurdle to get over,” Magelaner said. “We don’t know exactly what it’s going to be. All we can tell people right now is it will definitely be higher than the $9.9 million.”

At a minimum, the library and town will have to match approximately $4.4 million, of which the library has raised $350,000. Magelaner said the library is in the process of figuring our fundraising opportunities and will have to ask residents to vote for a debt exclusion.

“We’ll definitely be looking to the town of Orange for a debt exclusion,” she said, noting more grants will also be pursued to decrease the burden on residents.

For residents with questions or suggestions about the renovation, Magelaner advised they should attend Wheeler Memorial Library’s building committee meetings every other Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Moore-Leland Library, located at 172 Athol Road, and on Zoom.

“It’s a community library,” she said, “and we would like to hear from the community.”

Tilton Library

“I can’t believe the day has finally come,” Bradbury-Carlin said to the dozens of people who gathered on the lawn Monday night. “We have the opportunity to improve and expand our beloved library to be even better.”

At the celebration, folks were treated to free doughnuts from Leo’s Table and music from local acts Gordon Kramer, Rob Peck and the trio of Paired Down. Bradbury-Carlin said Monday was a chance to celebrate the announcement, but that work must continue — Deerfield now has six months to provide a grant match.

If the grant cannot be matched, it will be lost, and Tilton Library would have to start from square one.

“We have six months, until Jan. 7, for the town to secure funding for this project or we lose this opportunity until who knows when,” Bradbury-Carlin said. “We have a few hills to climb to get there and you will hear from us on how to help, where to be and when.”

When the library’s grant application was approved by the MBLC in 2017, the project’s cost was estimated at roughly $8 million, but that price has changed as the town awaited its turn to be funded, with construction materials becoming more expensive. Speaking by phone Tuesday, Bradbury-Carlin said the library’s architect is looking at the design plans and “tabulating the revised cost estimate.”

If that cost estimate is much more expensive than anticipated, minor tweaks can be made to the plan to save money, she said, such as what materials are used, but major aspects of the design cannot be changed due to the grant’s guidelines.

Residents will be asked to allocate money through a Special Town Meeting vote, and if that is approved, then a ballot question will come before voters in November. While the town works through that process, Tilton Library will conduct a fundraising blitz of its own — which has already raised $750,000 toward its $2 million goal.

“We’re going to have lots of events like last night sharing information,” Bradbury-Carlin said Tuesday. “This is a big deal, and you need to make sure potential donors are in the know and are excited.”

If undertaken, the project would include energy efficiency upgrades, renovating and expanding existing rooms, and improving accessibility. A slideshow presenting the library’s plans can be viewed at bit.ly/36nNjI7.

Tilton Library was built in 1916 with a bequest local grocer Chauncey B. Tilton left in his will, along with municipal and private contributions. The library, at 75 North Main St., has not had a major renovation since the 1990s, when a wheelchair-accessible lift and additional children’s room space was added. An update to the front steps for historical preservation purposes took place in 2011.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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