Medford is preparing to begin construction of a $34 million public library that officials said will allow them to meet a longstanding need for more space and improved facilities.
In October, contractors are set to begin demolishing the existing 60-year-old library to make way for the new 44,000-square-foot facility, to be built on the same High Street site.
During construction, the library will operate out of leased space in a commercial building at 200 Boston Ave. The library will be closed on Friday, July 19, to continue preparation for the move and from July 26 to Aug. 10 to set up the temporary location, which opens Aug. 12.
“This is an exciting time for the city,” Mayor Stephanie M. Burke said of the pending start of the library construction, which is being funded with the help of a $12 million state grant.
Noting that the library serves all residents — including people in need — Burke said, “it really is a building block for the community. . . . I’m really excited for the residents of Medford and beyond who will be able to utilize this space.”
Opened in 1959, the existing 29,000-square-foot building replaced the previous library, which was housed in a mansion donated to the city by the family of shipbuilder Thatcher Magoun, in 1875, according to library director Barbara Kerr.
The current building has no handicap access at the rear or to the second floor. Because it is inaccessible, the second floor has been closed to the public, a contributing factor to the building’s overall space shortage.
“It was built before computers and is not wired properly. The roof is in poor condition, there are limited bathrooms,” Kerr said, citing other deficiencies with the building. “The facility is very aged and can no longer meet the community’s needs.”
In addition to being far more spacious and fully accessible, the new two-story facility will offer patrons such amenities as an up-to-date technology lab, a maker-space room, separate glassed-in spaces for children and teens, varied adult seating areas, a cafe/lounge, a gallery, and 10 meeting rooms — one large enough to accommodate plays and films.
The project, set for completion in spring 2021, also involves adding 13 new parking spaces.
Burke formed a committee in 2016 to seek funding from the state Board of Library Commissioners for a building project. She said the city was thrilled to learn in 2017 it had not only been awarded the grant, but as a first-round recipient would not need to be placed on a waiting list to receive it..
In spring 2018, the City Council authorized borrowing for the project, with the understanding that city funds would cover $18 million of the cost, with at least $4 million to be raised privately by a local foundation being created for the purpose. The state grant will cover the remaining cost.
Kerr, who has worked at the library for 35 years, the last three as director, said she is thrilled to see the goal of a new facility coming to fruition.
“I have a very good group of people who do amazing things in a less than an amazing facility,” she said of her staff. “I can’t wait to see what they can do with the new space.”