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J.V. Fletcher Library Aiming For Overhaul By 2020


The J.V. Fletcher Library is looking to completely renovate itself in 2020 and the planning process is underway.

On Monday, members of the Library Trustees and Permanent Town Building Committee acting as the Library Facility Needs Committee met in the Mary Atwood Room to discuss updates and details involving the process.

There, J.V. Fletcher Library Director Ellen Rainville shared concepts for an entirely new floor plan for the library as well as a new façade for the “main entrance” in the back of the building and a comparison on space usage expectations following the renovations.

In the designs shown during the meeting, the interior of the library’s rear area will be expanded outward to create a roughly rectangular footprint for the building, with a large skylight window parallel to the entrance way.

Adjustments would also be made to the parking lot providing a projected ten more spaces, bringing the total up to 73.

Despite the changes, several areas such as the historic front of the building along Main Street and the large lawn between the library and the First Parish Church United building, will remain the same.

J.V. Fletcher Library Director Ellen Rainville points at a schematic comparing area usage in the current and future libraries.
J.V. Fletcher Library Director Ellen Rainville points at a schematic comparing area usage in the current and future libraries.

Rainville told the committee that the new library will be approximately 35,000 square feet, although that expected figure has reduced greatly over time as the Massachusetts Library Association has recommended less of an emphasis on collection size.

“What it’s really about is a building with space for people,” said Rainville. “Ten years ago, I thought a renovated building would have been 52,000 square feet and five years ago it would have been 47,000 square feet. The times and needs of libraries have changed.”

The new building would have a greater emphasis on meeting room space, moving the first floor meeting room to the back of the building and expanding its capacity to 130 seats. The Mary Atwood Room would be joined by two more meeting rooms on the third floor and several group study areas on the second floor.

While the library obtained a $50,000 matching grant for design and planning of the renovation in 2014, work on funding the construction efforts will meet its first test at Fall Special Town Meeting this October.

There, voters will be asked if they support efforts to pursue an $8.1 million public library construction project grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

According to Rainville, the award and construction would is expected to begin in 2020, although this projection is due in part to other libraries considered in higher need of funding, such as a library in Dartmouth expected to be demolished in the near future.

However, if successful, the grant funding could be awarded any time between 2017 and 2021.

An estimated 30 to 35 other municipalities across the Commonwealth are expected to compete for the grant funding with Rainville saying that only eight or nine will receive funding.

The expected cost of the renovations is currently projected at $21.5 million, including $4 million to account for expected elevation of construction costs. Private funds and Community Preservation Act funding would account for $1.3 million in the cost estimates, with a required town bond of $12.1 million needed after the grant is awarded.

Due to maturity of bonds on several Westford schools coming to term in the early 2020s, Rainville told the committee that a bond issuance sometime near 2019 would be unlikely to significantly impact tax rates. That bond is estimated at $94 per average assessed household or $1.75 per week over the life of the bond.

During construction, a temporary space will be needed, which has yet to be determined.

The committee is set to present its plans to the Selectmen on Tuesday, a full copy of the presentation can be found on the town’s website in the Selectmen’s packet.