Frequently Asked Questions regarding a new library for Belmont

Why is the Belmont Public Library important for our community?

Belmont Public Library is our cultural and community center, a place that welcomes people of all ages, backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and interests.  It is the host to a wide range of performances and lectures.  It is the classroom for various types of subjects from art demonstration projects, to coding classes for teens, to language and writing classes, to robotic demonstrations for grade schoolers, to story time of all ages.  It is the gathering place for an incredible range of clubs including knitting, gardening, book clubs of all ages, and homework groups.  It is a formal meeting place for various boards and community groups, as well as an informal meeting place for friends, tutoring, and gathering.  It is a repository of resources for the community, including books, digital media, computers, electronic readers, searchable databases, museum passes, and more.  Our library is the physical location that houses these events, services, and knowledge, and makes them available to our entire community.

How is our Library valued by the community?

Our library is a well-loved resource and demands on it continue to grow.  Per Belmont Public Library State Reporting, in 2017 the Belmont Public Library:

  • Ranked 11th in the State for number of circulated items, far more than libraries in cities and towns with much larger populations
  • Had a 22% increase in the number of visits to the Library as compared to 2014
  • Hosted an average of 1,000 visits per day, over 270,000 in one year
  • Serviced 15,444 borrowers, more than 60% of the town’s total population
  • Provided 645 programs with 19,186 attendees
  • Answered 36,646 reference questions
  • Lent out 562,976 items

Demand continues to increase as the school population expands rapidly, with more than 100 additional students entering the public schools each year.  To learn more about the extensive programming and resources of our library, go here on the Belmont Public Library site to read the Annual Report and the Long Range Plan.

Why does Belmont Library need a new facility?

Given increasing demand on our Library, in 2016 the Town commissioned a feasibility study at the request of the Library Trustees.  The study concluded that the current building does not meet the needs of our community. Some of these shortcomings include:

  • The Children’s Room is not large enough for our growing youth population and cannot be adapted to meet the programmatic needs for children’s activities.
  • Teen space is too confined and constricted, especially in light of the burgeoning number of middle and high school students.
  • Residents and organizations need more spaces for individual study, meetings, classes, events and programs.
  • As town residents become more dependent on libraries as media and computer centers, we do not have the space to house both equipment and work space.

Why not just renovate the current Library?

The 2016 feasibility study concluded that it would be unwise use of resources to renovate the building, since the required changes would be costly and reduce usable space, yet fail to provide appropriate space for both current and future uses. In addition to the current building not meeting the needs of our community as noted above, the existing building requires major renovation just to continue in its current capacity:

  • Heating and air conditioning systems are insufficient.
  • Electrical systems are original and inadequate.
  • The building does not meet current codes; for examples, there is no sprinkler system.
  • Many entryways, stacks, and bathrooms are not accessible to all patrons.
  • Addressing structural and design deficiencies would result in significant loss of usable space.

What is the Belmont Library Foundation?

The Belmont Library Foundation, a Massachusetts 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, was formed to undertake promotional and fundraising activities for the Belmont Public Library, including support for construction of a new building and creation of an endowment to fund ongoing library needs.

Belmont residents formed the Belmont Library Foundation  in the 1990s to honor the historic “public /private partnership” established over a century ago by the vision and generosity of Henry O. Underwood, who nearly single-handedly created the Town’s very first dedicated Library Building, and to sustain this legacy of financial support for one of our community’s most valuable and enduring institutions.  Many generations of users — children, youth/teens, mature, and older citizens alike — all with varying skill sets, languages, interests and needs, rely upon the Belmont Library to provide and maintain a wide array of programs and resources. The Belmont Library Foundation, in turn, specifically engages the greater community and leads the effort to gather financial resources to create a new physical space commensurate with Belmont’s highly effective programs, perennially one of the Commonwealth’s top circulation and programmatic libraries, regardless of city/town population.

The Belmont Library Foundation is leading the effort to raise private funds for a new building.  Together with the Library Administration, its Trustees, and the Friends of the Library, the Foundation encourages continued and increased support of the Belmont Public Library as a valuable community resource.

What is the Library Building Committee?

The Library Building Committee was created by Town Meeting in November 2017 and appointed by the Town Moderator.  At this time, the Library Building Committee is responsible for hiring a project manager and design architect to develop a schematic design for the library.  Schematic Design is the first design phase of a building project, and it will utilize the information gathered and synthesized in the 2016 Feasibility Study to determine the layout and form of the proposed new library building.  The Schematic Design will also be a key step in fundraising for the new building project, as it sets the vision of both the function and appearance of the new building and its grounds.  The Library Building Committee’s role will expand once the schematic design phase is complete and the Town of Belmont approves funding for a new library building.

What is the difference between the Belmont Library Foundation and the Friends of Belmont Library?

The Foundation will be the primary fundraising arm of the library for its new building and its endowment for the future. The Friends are a membership organization whereby dues and donations fund Friends-sponsored programs and events. These include the ongoing and special semi-annual used book sales, the museum passes program and specific programmatic initiatives.