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FSC classes in city library stalled
J.J. Huggins, Sentinel & Enterprise, February 20, 2007

LEOMINSTER -- Library officials say they like a proposal from two city councilors who want Fitchburg State College to offer classes at the new library.But now that the library is not scheduled to open until June, it is too soon to make an agreement with the college, according to the officials.

"Since several members of the Library Trustees are alumnae of Fitchburg State College and the current president of the college (Robert Antonucci) once served as the chairman of the Leominster Public Library Board of Trustees, you can be assured that this suggestion was welcomed wholeheartedly," Gilbert Tremblay, the chairman of the library trustees, wrote in a letter to city councilors.

"However, we hope you will understand that library-sponsored programs will take priority and that any long-term programming will be addressed when the meeting room policies are established," he concluded.

The trustees feel it is "too premature to enter into any long-term agreements until we can evaluate the needs of the community for use of meeting-room space," according to Tremblay's letter.

Tremblay, during an interview, said the library hosts a variety of activities and meetings for children and adults throughout the day and night.

"We welcome it (the proposal), but later," he said. "City needs will come first."

More than 3,500 people visit the library each week, according to Library Director Susan Shelton.

Shelton looks forward "to working with the Library Board of Trustees to consider proposals from Fitchburg State College and any other institutions that have an interest in utilizing space within the library," she wrote in a letter to the City Council.

Councilor at-large John Dombrowski and Ward 4 Councilor Robert Salvatelli are proposing that Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella and the trustees negotiate with FSC and any other college or university to bring classes to the library.

Dombrowski read Shelton's and Tremblay's letters and he understands their desire to give priority to programs they already run before they start hosting something new, he said.

"I certainly don't want to interfere with any library functions," he said. "I think the idea of having a college presence in the new library is a great idea, and it's really something we should work hard for."

Dombrowski figures students will patronize nearby stores and restaurants before and after classes.

Both Mazzarella and Antonucci have said they like the proposal.

FSC offers several off-campus classes, according to Antonucci.

Dombrowski, a lawyer, said he got the idea from fellow attorney Charles Gelinas Sr.

Gelinas is a Leominster resident and a former FSC trustee.

Having FSC classes at the library would be convenient for continuing education students, Gelinas said.

"If you were to canvass area educational students, you would find a lot of need for a satellite campus," he said. "As a former trustee at Fitchburg State College, I know how congested it is, the parking is difficult."

Drawing college students downtown would make the city more vibrant, he said.

It would also be an opportunity for the library to make money, because the college would pay to use the space, according to Gelinas.

The city has a contract with Fontaine Bros. Inc. of Springfield to renovate the existing West Street building across from City Hall and add onto it.

The project is expected to cost more than $12 million.

The library is temporarily operating out of the Crossroads Office Park on Mechanic Street.

Volunteers have waged a private fundraising campaign to help pay for the building, and they have raised $1 million to date, according to the library's Web site.

Their goal is $1.2 million.

The city is holding an auction to generate more money on March 24 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in City Hall. For more information about the event, call the library at 978-534-7522.



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