Putnam to vote on library land purchase

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Fri., Nov. 22, 2013
The current location is not completely handicapped-accessible. Photos by D. Coffey.
The current location is not completely handicapped-accessible. Photos by D. Coffey.

The Putnam Public Library is bursting at the seams. The first Putnam library opened in 1884 with 270 books. The current library, completed in 1955, with thousands more books but only 9,000 square feet, is no longer a sufficient space for a city that’s steadily grown in population and services.

Library Director Priscilla Colwell said the library isn’t completely handicapped accessible, nor can it accommodate the many programs offered to the public. Among those programs are very popular children’s activities. The children’s wing, opened in 1979, features a sunken space that was popular in that time period. It doesn’t allow for handicapped access, however. Story time draws about 32 children a session, while the Tiny Tots program (0 to 3) usually has a group of 30 attendees.

The library hosts a summer lunch program, which has grown, and its meetings rooms are used by several community groups. Knowing the needs of the community far exceed the size of the current library, the town appointed a committee to choose an architect and research possible building sites. In August 2013, a proposal was submitted to the state for a library construction grant totaling $1 million.

The Johnson/Roberts Architectural firm of Somerville, Mass., and the committee chose a site on Church Street after reviewing five possible sites. The proposed location keeps the library close to other government services and proximity to the downtown area.
The proposed library will be an 18,000-square-foot, two-story structure. There will be access to meeting space for up to 150 people that will be able to be closed off from the main library.

Plans call for three study rooms that can be closed off for tutoring or quiet space, a technology room that will house computers for regular use as well as classes, a local history room and multipurpose room. The second floor will house the children’s section, with a reading room and a craft room. All features are designed with the safety of the community in mind, said Colwell.

Town residents will have a chance to learn more about the project at a town meeting on Dec. 2. A referendum will be held on Dec. 17 on the $300,000 purchase of the Church Street land.

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