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Westwood says goodbye to one library and, soon, hello to another

Westwood’s main public library closes on Thursday after a 43-year run of service to the community, to be replaced in January when a better, bigger building opens next door.

Until then, residents can use a branch library in Islington, said library director Tom Viti. Although he’s not sad to see the cramped old building go, Viti said, he is grateful for what it has meant to generations of Westwood families and others who used it.

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“It has been a great meeting place for all ages to come together,’’ Viti said. “And it helped knit the community together along with the schools and the churches.”

Once the building comes down in November, the historic, 200-ton Colburn School, now stored on steel beams in the library’s back parking lot, will be inched to its location.

The 1876 school building will be rotated 90 degrees to face the new library, then be renovated to house a bank on its ground floor, and six condos on the second and third floors.

Westwood is one of several communities south of Boston that have been able to either build a new library, or renovate or add on to an existing one in recent years. Westwood required a $9.3 million commitment from property taxpayers through an override of the tax limits of Proposition 2½, a $4 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, which oversees the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, and private donations.

The town of Walpole dedicated its new $11 million public library in May, while Foxborough is in the process of an $11.7 million renovation to its Boyden Library. Scituate recently got word it will receive nearly $5 million in grant assistance for its library. The town has nine months to find a match to the grant and fund the remainder of a $12 million expansion and renovation, said Celeste Bruno, a spokeswoman for the state library board.

Volunteers have started a “1000 Homes for Scituate Library Campaign,” seeking 1,000 donors to give $1,000 or more over a four-year period to help the library reach its goal. Cochairman Les Ball has said so many residents are willing to support the project that the “1000 Homes” campaign is just one in a number of options for raising funds.

The town of Stoughton, meanwhile, was placed on the waiting list in May for a potential $6.7 million grant to fund a $14 million renovation of its library. At the time, library board chairwoman Katherine Dibble said commissioners were continuing efforts to find funding for the project.

Stoughton officials say they have worked to come up with a project that residents can be proud of, including a plan to add a full second floor to the building, as well as handicap access.

Library director Pat Basler has estimated the timeframe for the project to be fully funded and able to move forward as between three and five years. 

The state library agency has helped build 51 new library buildings and 126 additions or renovations since 1987. 

In Westwood, Viti said all materials will be out of the old building and into the annex by early November. Biblio Tech of Connecticut will move an estimated 80,000 books along with files, computers, and some artwork.

Westwood’s Islington branch will be open six days a week during the interim period. Library patrons who have requested books or other materials may pick them up at the branch or other libraries in the Minuteman Library Network, Viti said.

Some special items from the old library will find a home in the new, 35 percent larger building, including a bicentennial quilt that has hung on its walls for 36 years, Viti said, as well as a series of murals in the children’s room, another mural by artist Rufus Porter — founder of Scientific American magazine — and a hand-carved wooden seal of the town of Westwood.

The library will have three computer networks, wireless access, 60 new computers, and a high-tech sorting system behind the circulation desk that, activated by a chip in each book, will automatically separate materials into a series of appropriate bins for filing.

Town officials, meanwhile, are excited to get the Colburn on the tax rolls, which economic development director Christopher McKeown said will probably take effect next year.

Developer Michael Coffman bought the Colburn for $300,000 and has received a height variance from the Westwood Zoning Board of Appeals to re-create the 28-foot spire that was destroyed in a 1938 hurricane. 

A request by Coffman to install a wireless communications tower within the spire as a way to help offset its $25,000 cost is being considered by the town.

Michele Morgan Bolton’s can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.
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