Residents and government officials gather at the library’s 20th anniversary.
Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — The Emily L. Partyka Central Library celebrated its 20th anniversary on April 9.

The celebration invited the community as well as local and state government representatives to enjoy an exhibit of construction photos, old newspaper articles and a reception to relive the beginning of the library.

Chicopee Public Library Director Laura Bovee talked about the event.

She said, “This is an event to celebrate the library building’s 20th anniversary. The library has been in existence much longer, but this building was built about 20 years ago. We are trying to celebrate both the fact of the building itself but also all of the community members and library staff and other folks who helped do the fundraising to make the building possible.”

People at the event were also able to view pictures from the groundbreaking event as well as newspaper articles from as early as 1999 covering the process of funding, designing and constructing the new building.

The original library was funded in 1853 and built in 1913 and has been designated as a historic building.

In 2004, the library expanded and relocated to 449 Front St. thanks to a donation of $500,000 from the Partyka family and fundraising efforts by the Friends of the Library through the “Raise the Roof” campaign.

Bovee said that even after 20 years, she can still feel the support of the city and Friends of the Library

She added, “One of the really nice things about the city of Chicopee is that the city government and officials have always really supported the library very strongly even through times of difficult budgets and through [the coronavirus pandemic]. There were other libraries in surrounding towns or surrounding states that had to cut back. There was a real commitment and always has been of this city to support the library. It’s a very nice feeling.”

Bovee has worked at the library for 13 years but talked about what it meant to her to be able to celebrate the 20th year of the building.

She said, “It’s pretty amazing. I missed the part where the building was absolutely brand new but you can feel the ownership that the city takes in this building and the care that went into making this building possible. It’s something even 20 years later that you can feel when you walk into the building which is a really nice thing.”

The library hosts multiple events, has many books and media to offer as well as a place to socialize, according to Bovee.

She talked about how important a library is to a community.

“I think it’s very valuable. We see folks who use the library as a way of entertainment, novels, DVDs, to keep themselves occupied and to enrich their lives. We also see people use our computers for things like job applications or other various official things that they may need to do. We see folks who come and learn things everyday at the library. We see other folks that this may be one of their more important social interactions of the day. It feels like a real community center rather than just a place to just come and get some books,” Bovee said.

The event took place on National Library Worker’s Day as well as during National Library Week. Mayor John Vieau recognized the great staff at the library.
He also welcomed state Sens. Jake Oliveira (D-Ludlow) and John Velis (D-Westfield), representatives from state Rep. Adam Gomez’s (D-Springfield) office as well as former Board of Aldermen/City Councilor William Zaskey, who Vieau called a mentor and said was intimately involved in the original project.

Vieau continued to acknowledge how important it was to not only celebrate the building itself but also the dedication of all those who make it the way it is today.

“It’s been the heartbeat of our community for two decades. It’s an occasion that affords us the perfect opportunity to reflect on the immeasurable impact this institution has had on the lives of countless individuals,” Vieau added.

The Chicopee Historical Society and the Friends of Chicopee Public Library also hosted a presentation about the entire history of the library on April 10.

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