Library's Expansion  | Newspaper Articles
Leominster library opens
Jonathan Graham, Sentinel & Enterprise, June 11, 2007

LEOMINSTER -- Children chanted "Cut it, cut it," as Library Director Susan Shelton officially snipped the blue ceremonial ribbon outside the city's renovated library Sunday afternoon.Hundreds of residents rushed in after officials opened the door, marking the completion of the nearly two-year, $12 million project.

Officials and residents both said they viewed the new library as a symbol for the success of the city and its willingness to spend resources on education.

"This is a big deal," said state Sen. Robert Antonioni, D-Leominster, to large applause from the hundreds of spectators who gathered to watch the ribbon cutting.

"Our history will be defined by certain moments in time, I would suggest one of those moments is occurring today," he said.

Throngs of residents milled in the library's different sections Sunday afternoon, while beaming library staff offered help.

Children ran around the library's young adult area, dedicated to Leominster writer Robert Cormier. Older residents marveled at the library's much-refurbished front hall.

The renovation made a massive three-story addition to the library's original 1910 structure, originally donated by Andrew Carnegie.

Public money for the building project came into question last fall when Mayor Dean Mazzarella asked city councilors to approve a further $1.3 million for the project after builders ran into water problems.

Councilors at the time challenged the size and scope of the 40,000-square foot project, but ultimately approved a loan.

Ben and Beth Ortega both gave a "Wow" as they left the building with their three children Sunday.

"It's even more beautiful than we could have ever imagined," Beth Ortega said.

Both of them described the library's price tag as "worth every penny."

The Ortegas said they home school their children, and the new library has a lot of improvements.

"It's really a testament to the town," Beth Ortega said.

Shelton received a standing ovation from those in attendance before speaking before the opening. Many of the afternoon's speakers also praised her efforts in managing the library while overseeing much of the construction effort.

Best-selling author and Leominster native Adrian Nicole LeBlanc said her early experiences in the Leominster library had a large impact on the writer she later became.

"The library enhanced a childhood that daily gave reading and knowledge and language respect," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said that there is no way to calculate how much a library is worth to a community. She said she is proud Leominster has chosen to make it a priority.

"This library is a hopeful thing, built and sustained by people who love books, and love what happens in their company, who know the importance of what we say and how we say it, who recognize that democracy thrives in spaces like this," she said.

Mayor Dean Mazzarella lauded the work done by volunteers and staff to finish the project.

"So many people in the community who have supported the library, not when it became fashionable with a new building, but their entire lives," Mazzarella said. "That's the story."

He noted the $1.1 million privately raised to support the new library.

Mazzarella officially waived any past outstanding debts or fines owed by residents to the library in honor of the opening, and declared next week Leominster Public Library Week.

Kevin Mahoney, visiting the library with his 8-year-old daughter, said he liked how the new library preserved much of the old library's history.

"This is really an amazing thing they did here," Mahoney said.

His daughter, Olivia, called the library "really cool" and said she liked its new young adult section.

Jason Lortie, there with his 6-year-old daughter, said he had always gone to the library, but he thinks it will now attract more residents.

"The library is very, very improved for everyone," Lortie said. "It's very large, it's very comfortable, it's going to make more people want to come to the library."

Lortie said the library could become more of a community center now because of how comfortable and spacious it is.

George Comeau, commissioner of the state Board of Library Commissioners, praised the city's decision to invest in library services, which he described as an investment in freedom and liberty.

"You have built perhaps one of the finest libraries in Massachusetts," Comeau said to applause.

Gilbert Tremblay, chairman of the Library Board of Trustees, praised how the library represents how the city has grown and how the city has shown foresight by investing in a library while other cities cut back.

"This is a symbol of our city's progress, how we are moving forward as a community," Tremblay said.


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