FAQs about the New Library


The proposed new library will be built across the street on the High School softball field.  The softball field will remain, but it means a new location is needed for the practice/lacrosse field (which is also located across the street).  The current thought is the practice/lacrosse field will relocate to the Underwood Pool site.  There is a feasibility study underway to see if this is possible.  The study should be completed by the end of March.  One plan for the current library is to renovate it for the new police station.  The current police station will be sold, along with the old light department. 


Why do we need a new library?

We are in desperate need of space for programs, material, quiet study, computers and social interactions.

Belmont has high expectations for its library, which isn’t large enough to meet the demands. Programs tend to be over crowded, there are not enough computers, no quiet study rooms, all the mechanicals in the building are beyond their life expectancy.  The building is not handicapped accessible and it does not meet seismic, fire and other codes.


What will the new library give us that the current one won’t?

The new building will serve Belmont for many years by providing:

  • A wonderful and appropriate space for children’s story and craft activities, helping to teach our youngsters to love reading and learning.
  • Easy to navigate areas for the adult and young adult collections.
  • A sufficient number of computers with comfortable work areas to meet needs for software, database and catalog access and training.
  • Complete handicapped accessibility so all of our citizens can use the library.
  • Staff work space designed to maximize efficiency and safety.
  • Efficient and environmentally-friendly mechanical systems providing greater economy and comfort for patrons and staff.
  • Quiet study areas for tutoring, group projects and individual work.
  • A café that allows people to take breaks for socializing or snacks without leaving the building.
  • A library that is truly the center of the community, providing spaces for studying, reading, learning and socializing.

Why does it have to be so much bigger?

Partly because of ADA requirements, partly because of new standards for libraries.

The size is partly determined by ADA requirements, such as openings at both ends of aisles, aisles that are a minimum of 36 inches wide, and bathrooms and elevators that accommodate a motorized wheel chair.

Libraries have changed since we built the current structure. The plan takes into account new standards for libraries. The building does not presently meet standards for study space, space at public computers and amount of seating in reading areas.



Is this the final design?

No, a town-appointed building committee will work with the architect to develop a final design.

The current plans were developed as part of the grant application. The plan is a conceptual rendering just to show that the library program fits on the proposed site.

Why should there be a cafe in the library?

It is convenient for people who are at the library for several hours and need a quick snack and it will house the Friends of the Library’ s Every Day Book Sale.

Many new libraries include a café, which becomes one of the social hubs of the building. It will be a fun place where patrons can meet friends for coffee or take their children for a snack. They’ll be able to check their e-mail in a relaxed atmosphere, or buy a book from the Friends’ Used-Book Sale which will be located in the café.

Why can’t we renovate or add a wing?

Two feasibility studies concluded that renovation is simply not an option.

The building is a pre-stressed concrete slab that cannot be penetrated and the outer walls are load-bearing and cannot be disturbed. Two different architectural firms well-known for designing libraries and schools studied this extensively and concluded that neither a renovation nor a renovation/addition will solve the problem. They both found that renovating the existing building will cost almost as much as a new building and will not be nearly as effective or efficient.

Why can it be renovated for a Police Station?

The existing library meets the square footage required for a new police station without disturbing the outer load- bearing walls.

A feasibility study was done for the police department and the library was found to be the best option for a new police station. The current library is approximately the square footage that is required for the new police station.  The interior of the existing library can be renovated to meet all the requirements for a new police station without disturbing the outer walls.

How much bigger is the collection going to be?

The collection will increase only selectively, focusing on areas such as the literacy collection, foreign language collection and media collections.



Where will the new library be built?

The proposed site for the library is the High School softball/practice/lacrosse field across the street from the current library on Concord Ave.

What about the softball/practice field?

We continue to work with various individuals to find a solution. It was determined to replace the practice/lacrosse field.   The softball field will remain. There are two possible sites to build a field:

1. The incinerator site is large enough for a field.  However, there were concerns - additional costs for medical/trainers and transportation, shelter for inclement weather, state /town ownership (legislation has been filed for town to use land for recreational use), etc.

2. The Underwood Pool site. There is a feasibility study being done to see if the Underwood Pool can be moved up the hill creating space for a field (practice/lacrosse) for the High School. The study should be completed by the end March 2013.

How can the School Dept give the field to the library?

As part of this plan, a replacement field must be found or built for the High School.  Once that is done, the school committee needs to vote to transfer the land to the library.  Then Town Meeting must vote that the land will be used for a library.

Are there other sites that we can build a library on?

No.  This has been explored repeatedly and in great detail. There are no alternative sites.  The High School practice/lacrosse field site was recommended by the Capital Project Overview Committee and supported by the Selectmen.



Do we have the grant money?

Yes.  The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) awarded Belmont $7.5 million in October 2012.

How much will it cost to build a new library?

The estimate for the new building is $18.5 million. The state grant is $7.5 million and the BLF hopes to raise a minimum of $2 million of private funds.  This means the Town will need to fund $9 million or less.

How will the Town fund the remaining amount?

The Town will place a debt exclusion on the ballot for a town-wide vote. (not an override).

What are the next steps?

The school committee needs to vote to transfer the land to the library. Town Meeting must vote that the land will be used for a library.  The Town Meeting moderator must appoint a building committee.  The building committee, according to Town bylaws, would hire the project manager and architect to develop the final building design. It will probably take 9 to 12 months to complete the final building design. Once the final design is completed and approved, the library would ask the Town for a debt exclusion. Fundraising will be much easier to do once the site is voted and a building committee is appointed.

When will construction start?

We do not know. First we have to complete the final design work.  We will not be able to meet the MBLC’s timeline for construction so we will have to ask the MBLC for an extension.

The MBLC has given some libraries extensions to secure local funding if they have worked in good faith and have a good reason. We believe, based on conversations with people at the state level, that we have an excellent chance for an extension if we can show that we are working toward finalizing the site and getting a building committee appointed.



What about fundraising?

The Belmont Library Foundation has hired a consultant to help get them ready to begin a Capital Campaign.  Currently they have raised about $750,000.  A successful fundraising campaign can raise millions of dollars, but it requires a final design (so people know what they are contributing to), a commitment by the Town (which includes a building committee) and an idea of when the project will happen (so donors know their contributions will actually be used).