Arms Library earns $180,000 roof grant

Recorder/File Photo 
Shelburne Falls Arms Library in Pratt Memorial Library building needs a new roof.

Recorder/File Photo Shelburne Falls Arms Library in Pratt Memorial Library building needs a new roof. Purchase photo reprints »

SHELBURNE — The Arms Library’s “Raise the Roof” campaign just got a huge boost — $180,000 toward its goal to fix the library roof, ceiling, building exterior and foundation.

The $180,000 Community Development and Tourism grant comes from the Massachusetts Office of Executive Administration and Finance.

“It’s practically going to double our fundraising,” says Donna Liebl, who chairs the Arms Library Association’s board of trustees. “Everybody is over the moon. This is the most we’ve ever done in one swoop.”

Referring to a cardboard “thermometer” sign outside the library, which posts the fundraising campaign’s total, Liebl added, “This is going the make our thermometer go through the roof.”

The fundraising began in February 2012, and since then, library officials and volunteers have raised about $253,000, according to Liebl. This February, almost two years from the start of the campaign, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns came to Shelburne Falls to hold a fundraising talk and preview of his up-coming series on the Roosevelts. The library raised about $12,500 from that one night alone, Liebl said. Also, $70,000 has been given to the library through Shelburne town meetings, which paid for the engineering work for the complicated roof repairs needed for the historic building.

The town, which owns the building, will be asking annual town meeting residents to transfer $50,000 from the town’s Stabilization Account to help pay for the replacement of the domed roof, with its copper fittings.

Also, if the library supporters are able to secure two more grants they’ve applied for, it’s possible that construction work could begin this fall. If not, says Liebl, they hope to raise enough money to start construction next spring.

Liebl said fund raising chairwoman Whit Sanford wrote the grant application, with assistance from treasurer Cheryl Gilmore and library director Laurie Wheeler, “Whit is the mastermind,” she said. “Her plan has been pretty masterful. We’re still waiting for a few more pieces of the puzzle to fall in place. But that’s more likely to come through, now that we have this matching grant.

Liebl said she worked to help secure legislative support. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Stephen D. Brewer, and the measure had strong support for Sens. Ben Downing and Stan Rosenberg, and from Reps. Stephen Kulik, and Paul Mark.

Sen. Ben Downing said the grant was supported by the entire western Massachusetts delegation. “We recognize projects, like the vital rehabilitation of a library, have impact in any town. But in the small towns in western Mass., they have even more impact. These buildings mean a lot more than a place where people can come and check-out books. They’re a real community center, a hub of activity. And, as such, the state ought to be able to make sure they’re kept up and in good condition,” he said.

Liebl said this pilot grant program, created by the state Senate last year, had $2 million to award, and that 50 grant applications were submitted. The most any recipient could receive was $200,000, so Liebl felt the library did well.

“We would not have been as competitive for this grant if it weren’t for the fact that there were hundreds of very concerned citizens and donors,” said Liebl. “They see so many people trying to save the building, it’s a much stronger grant proposal.”

In an email, Sanford said “Getting this grant is key, because we now have the match in-hand for the grant we have asked for from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (a $350,000 Cultural Facilities request.)”

“The work we’ve done for the past two and a half years is paying off. Slow but steady has been our course,” said Sanford. “We raised $62,000 in grants and town funding to pay for the restoration planning and just shy of $190,000 to implement the first phase of the restoration. The $192,000 of local fundraising led to the $180,000 grant because we were able to show that we had strong local support for our project,” she said. “If we are successful with the last two grants I’ve written, we will be able to begin construction this fall.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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