Should library services remain at the Mary Cheney building? Public says 'no'

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Jan. 10, 2013
With what appeared to be the last chance for improvements come and gone, it is uncertain whether library services will remain at the Mary Cheney Building. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.
With what appeared to be the last chance for improvements come and gone, it is uncertain whether library services will remain at the Mary Cheney Building. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.

The Manchester Board of Directors met for the first time in 2013 on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and their thoughts and those of the public were on the future of the town's library. A $12.5 million referendum to expand the cramped and non-ADA-compliant Mary Cheney Library on Main Street failed at the Nov. 6, 2012, referendum and residents were eager to air their grievances or offer suggestions.

Dan Moran told the board that the only reason they want to keep library services at the Mary Cheney Building is to help the Main Street area. “Well, I think it's about time we realized, and be honest about it, that Main Street is in its death throes, if not dead,” said Moran. He said previous boards killed Main Street by approving the Parkades, which in turn were destroyed by Buckland Hills Mall. With a new Walmart approved at Spencer Street, he wondered what the fate would be of the mall.

Natasha Piendel described herself as an avid patron of the library. She recommended what she thought would be an inexpensive solution: relocating library services to two underutilized buildings on North Main Street: the Whiton Library and the Community Y Recreation Center. “Those buildings could be connected by a catwalk. Renovated. And there's already ample parking space,” she said. “That would really resolve the problem.”

The board had set aside time for the public to discuss the library during a public hearing portion of the meeting, where the discussion continued.

“I love the Mary Cheney building,” said Miriam Byroade, who was a proponent of expanding Mary Cheney Library at the Nov. 6 referendum. “However, the building does not fit with the current needs of our community.” Byroade said that after years of debate about the state of the library and Center Memorial Park, the best option is to move the library. She recommended a new group be formed to look at possible locations.

“I agree with Dan [Moran]. You want the library to save Main Street: Main Street's dead,” said Mrs. Schutes. “The library is a dead issue.”

Bob Edsel suggested making Mary Cheney a library for adults, and leasing space on Main Street for a children's library.

Tom Springfellow disagreed that the library is a “dead issue,” saying that is serves an educational purpose to the town. “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” he said.

Many of the comments upset two librarians from Mary Cheney Library: Barbara King and Lynn Jacobs. “I'm upset to hear that people think we should move the children someplace else,” said King. “The problem with that is children have parents who also like to use the library. Why have them go to two separate places?” She believed the library needed to be moved to a different location.

Jacobs agreed. “As much as it pains me, we need to investigate other locations,” she said.

A master plan to redevelop the former Broad Street Parkade calls for mixed-use development, which could include a civic building such as a library. Requests for qualifications are expected to be issued to the private sector some time this year.

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