Framingham Town Meeting members will decide the fate Wednesday of a proposal to build a new Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Branch Library.
Framingham's annual Town Meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. in Nevins Hall in the Memorial Building., and kicks off with a question that could pave the way for the $8.6 million library project that would replace the building in Saxonville.
The article requires a two-thirds majority in order to pass.
The article is requesting $7.9 million, which would be funded as a capital expense bond over 20 years. However, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners is offering to reimburse Framingham for half the cost, if the article is approved at Town Meeting, bringing the total cost to the town down to $3.8 million.
The town appropriated $710,000 for land in 2011. The library foundation has pledged $600,000 to the project.
According to Assistant Library Director and former branch librarian Jane Peck, Framingham's main branch on Lexington Street is 50,000 square feet. In comparison, the current McAuliffe Branch is only 5,400 square feet. Despite its relative size, Peck said McAuliffe is the second-busiest library by circulation in Massachusetts.
The building opened in 1963, and was later renamed in honor of astronaut and Framingham native Crista McAuliffe, who perished in the 1986 Challenger disaster.
According to the Framingham Library Foundation website, the McAuliffe branch has 11,250 visitors a month. The McAuliffe building needs $422,000 in repairs and enhancements to complete HVAC upgrades and become ADA compliant, the foundation says.
"There's a huge demand for library services," Peck said, in part, due to the branch library's proximity of eight schools and four housing complexes. "You need community space. Libraries are a place where people get together and meet, greet, and learn new things. That's a big part of what's missing at the branch. There's no space for anything like that."
Currently, there are only four internet-connected computers available for the public at the branch library, and no private study space.
The proposed new building – 17,000 square feet in Nobscot – would house 14 internet-connected computers, additional study space and a dedicated are for young adults.
There would be no need for additional staff to run the new library, Peck said.
Framingham Selectwoman Laurie Lee said she supports the warrant article. Lee said she had supported a 2005 Town Meeting effort to secure funds for a new branch library, which was defeated.
"I think the (McAuliffe) library is not sufficient and it needs a lot of work. The people need a library that's high quality," Lee said, "It's a great return on investment – the 50 percent reimbursement -- and it'll bring economic development to Nobscot, which needs it tremendously."
John Swinconeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.