Breaking Ground in Worcester
On Wednesday, we visited the Worcester Public Library for the groundbreaking of a major expansion. We originally visited the library in February of 2019. It’s a big urban library that is going a great job with the resources at hand. Now, the library is poised to make some changes that will only enhance the services it provides.
The scene at the groundbreaking was one of excitement. There was a big crowd, easily over 100 people. Mayor Joseph Petty led the event, speaking eloquently of the role of the library in Worcester and introducing the various speakers. The city manager, Edward M. Augustus Jr., has clearly been a driving force for this project and he spoke with real heart about the planned expansion and what it would mean for the community.
Some of the features of the library will include an 8,000 square foot innovation center, a “New Americans” corner to help immigrants as they work to establish themselves in the community and which Augustus hopes will provide them with “a path and a passion.” A new children’s room will also be a real highlight of the project. Tim Lowe, the President of the Board of the Worcester Public Library Foundation, promised that the new space will be “the most exciting children’s room in the history of the city.”
The hope is that the new children’s section, relocated to the third floor, will - in the words of Augustus - encourage young patrons to “know, learn and be inspired by their city.” The expectation is that children will love the new space so much that they will bring parents and grandparents to the library - and to downtown Worcester as well.
Making the library more accessible will also happen through a new front entrance. Currently, the library can only be accessed through a rear door and a side entrance. A new, more fitting entryway will be created on Franklin Street as part of this expansion.
The event also included comments by Stephanie Eden Pasha, Worcester Public Library Board President; R. Drayton Fair, Principal at LLB Architects, as well as a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe who talked about his experience of the library and youngster whose family came to Worcester from northern Iraq. The stories and information shared painted a picture of a city of growing pride and confidence.
One really interesting fact about this expansion is that it’s being done without state funding. This was a conscious decision and one made with the confidence that the monies could be raised within the community and the desire that the project be completed more quickly than would be the case if the city had applied for a grant.
So far, these assumptions have proven to be well-founded. Of the estimated $12.7 million cost of the project, $9 million has been provided by the City of Worcester. For the remaining amount, the Worcester Public Library Foundation has secured $3.3 million and is on track to raise the final $700,000 needed for the project. How impressive is that? As for timing, construction will begin later this summer and plans are for the expansion to be completed in mid-2020.
The entire event was inspiring. To see so many people come together to celebrate the formal start of such an undertaking was fabulous. To see and hear the commitment from civic and community leaders to make the Worcester Public Library an even more integral part of the city says a lot about this city and its future.