SHUTESBURY — Earlier this month, the M.N. Spear Memorial Library received a $10,000 grant from the American Library Association. The grant will help library staff to figure out how to better serve neurodiverse residents in the new library building, soon to enter the construction phase.

“This grant will allow our library to get to know our residents with disabilities better,” said Library Director Mary Anne Antonellis. “And it will help us furnish and equip our new library, enhancing the space our community has been working on for so many years.”

The American Library Association and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries awarded 310 grants nationwide in the Libraries Transforming Communities: Accessible Small and Rural Communities program. The initiative helps small and rural libraries more fully serve the needs of those with disabilities. Part of the local effort will be to enlist the aid of neurodiverse residents with autism spectrum disorders, attention deficits or other cognitive patterns to identify furniture and appointments that better serve their needs.

“That’s one of the reasons we needed a new library,” Antonellis said. “The new library will be fully wheelchair accessible and accessible to people with other mobility needs. But this grant is specifically to serve people who fall on the spectrum of neurodiversity.”

Programming will be a focus, as will the creation of appropriate library spaces, furniture, equipment and shelving. Residents’ input will help identify how specific changes will make the library more accessible for the neurodiverse. The grant arrives at the perfect time for that effort, when construction on the new library building is about to begin.

The look and layout of the new library was decided on during the schematic design and design development phases. Now, the construction documents the contractor will use to build the structure are being finetuned. That effort is about 75% complete.

The well, the first step in the construction process, has been permitted by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The Board of Health and Conservation Commission permitted the septic field and the overall layout on the site adjacent to Cooleyville Road. No wetlands will be impacted, just the buffer zone where minor encroachments are allowed.

“We expect to go out to bid around April 22 or 23,” Antonellis said. “We would expect the bids back about three weeks after that. And by the end of May or the beginning of June, we’ll be signing a contract with a contractor and starting construction.”

The library director couldn’t keep the excitement out of her voice, even when describing an unexpected challenge: new plumbing regulations. The state instituted new building codes for plumbing, which included a requirement in public buildings for an additional restroom for women. The project designers, Audens Ello Architects, made the necessary alterations.

The exterior of the new library, Antonellis said, is designed to last at least 50 years. Rather than a shed-style roof with a single slope, the final design features a roof with gabled ends and two slopes. Solar panels will be mounted on each side. The roof will be metal rather than shingles.

The exterior layout hasn’t changed much from the architect’s initial concepts, though the outside envelope will receive upscale treatments. The building will be clad with tiles of Vermont slate and accents of yellow pine. A long driveway will lead in from Cooleyville Road and arrive at a dozen parking spaces. Handicapped accessible walkways lead to each entrance. Small gardens will beautify the building apron, along with landscaping.

“We’re going to leave most of the landscaping to be done by the Highway Department and volunteers because, frankly, we’ve been looking forward to doing the landscaping ourselves for years,” Antonellis said.

The Shutesbury resident said the adult area will feature cozy seating arrangements. A small meeting room with a closable door for privacy will compliment the large meeting room opening to the left of the main entrance. The large meeting room will seat about 50 people, with another 10 to 15 seats possible in the entranceway. A sliding door to the room, when opened, will facilitate the expansion.

The children’s area, Antonellis said, will have plenty of playspace for the kids and lots of books.

The biggest story about the new library, Antonellis said, is the fundraising success of the Friends of the Library. The Friends have raised $3,500 in the last year by collecting returnable bottles and cans, about 70,000 of them at a nickel each. Teams of volunteers do spring spruce ups, charging homeowners a donation in return for an hour of yardwork. Many other efforts have contributed to a fundraising total of $524,000.

The Friends committed to raise a total of $550,000 two years ago, when the town received a Small Library Pilot Project grant that will cover most of the costs for the new library. Library Giving Day will be celebrated in Shutesbury on April 10. Antonellis has no doubt they’ll raise the last $26,000 before construction starts.

“We’re going to take that big empty scruffy field and put a library in it,” Antonellis said. “I’ve been working on this for 16 and a half years, so it really, in some ways it just doesn’t seem real. But it is.”

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