‘A dream come true’: Greenfield celebrates long-awaited library opening

  • Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll speaks during the Greenfield Public Library’s grand opening on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • People pour into the Greenfield Public Library after the building’s grand opening on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • People enjoy the bright reading room on the second floor during the Greenfield Public Library’s grand opening on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner speaks during the Greenfield Public Library’s grand opening on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Patrons use one of the makerspaces during the Greenfield Public Library’s grand opening on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Former Greenfield Public Library Director Ellen Boyer speaks during the building’s grand opening on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/13/2023 3:34:53 PM
Modified: 7/13/2023 3:34:33 PM

GREENFIELD — Under the beating heat of the sun on Thursday, city and state officials, local leaders and eager library patrons gathered outside the Greenfield Public Library for the long-awaited opening of the new 26,800-square-foot building with “something for everyone.”

“We’re realizing a dream come true,” Doris Cowdrey, chair of the Greenfield Public Library board of trustees, said Thursday morning. “The planning and execution of this plan represent a community effort. Hundreds have been involved as we journeyed from the idea of a new library to the reality of a new library.”

Thursday’s grand opening comes more than a decade after the vision for a new library was first discussed, and nearly four years after Greenfield voters approved building a new library with a 61% positive vote. The $19.5 million appropriation accounted for construction costs as well as those of the architect, project manager, and furniture and fixtures, according to Library Building Committee Co-Chair Ed Berlin. In addition to a $9.4 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Greenfield Public Library Foundation said it would contribute about $2 million.

On Thursday, Berlin shared that the project was completed nearly $1.4 million under budget.

“I am truly honored to stand here before you today as we finally, finally celebrate the long-awaited opening of the new Greenfield Public Library,” he said. “Truth be told, I’ve been waiting 11 years for this day to finally come.”

Mayor Roxann Wedegartner — who was also joined by Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll and several area legislators, including Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton — said the building will provide “years and years of joy.”

“We’re not just here to celebrate bricks and mortar,” Wedegartner said. “We’re here to celebrate the human spirit that got us here. We’re here to celebrate the generosity of all the volunteers and all of the people who donated money and all of the people who have worked so hard for quite a while now.”

Driscoll added that Thursday was a celebration of the community’s “commitment to the next generation.”

“This is your gift, Greenfield, to the many people who may not necessarily be here today but are going to enjoy this amazing building,” Driscoll said. “I find that really special.”

While other parts of the country are banning books, she said Massachusetts is “building buildings to house books.”

“Libraries are more than just about a place where we can access books; they’re the great equalizer in our communities,” said Driscoll, who was headed to Natural Roots farm in Conway following the library’s grand opening to survey damage from this week’s rainstorms and flooding. “[They provide] respite for our most vulnerable, and a place you can have lifelong learning, from our youngest residents to folks who want to age in place with dignity and respect.”

Massachusetts Library Building Commissioner George Comeau, who also attended the library’s groundbreaking in August 2021, acknowledged the divide in the community over the project. In particular, concerns were raised by some residents about the proposed size and the impact on taxpayers, as well as the historic significance of the fire station that was demolished to make way for the new building.

“I’m proud we had a dialogue that day, and that’s core to the element of what this library and what democracy is about,” he said, referencing protests that took place at the August 2021 groundbreaking. “We can disagree, we can protest, and we can support and voice our differences.”

Now two years later, the city can boast “one of the finest new libraries in the commonwealth today.”

“Your original library of 1909 has now moved forward, secure and refreshed in a spectacular way,” Comeau said, referencing the Leavitt-Hovey House next door. The community bid the old building farewell in a celebration on June 17 before moving materials to the new building.

For Ellen Boyer, who retired as the library’s director this month, the opening of the new building also marked a “passing of the torch,” as she moves out of the role, and Anna Bognolo steps into it.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Boyer. “The truth is, it takes a village to achieve just about any meaningful goal, including building a library. Our Greenfield village is made up of hundreds of people who helped make this day a reality. Just look what we did.”

Next steps for the Leavitt-Hovey House

On June 29, the city closed its request for proposals (RFP) for the acquisition, renovation and redevelopment of the former library building, located at 402 Main St. According to a public records request, the city received only one response, from Greenfield Savings Bank.

According to the city’s Communications Director Matthew Conway, a request for proposals committee is “undergoing an assessment” of the submission.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy