Just the FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why would Greenfield need a new library?

Since at least 1995 Greenfield has known it needs a new library.

In the mid-1990s the town applied to the state for money to upgrade the current historic building that serves as the library. The state responded that the building was unsuitable for a public library and refused to fund any upgrades, and instead advised Greenfield to submit a plan for a new building. 

When Greenfield submitted a proposal for a new library, the state offered a grant for it, but the Town Council ultimately rejected that plan. So Greenfield has known for decades that its current building does not meet state and federal standards governing size, safety and accessibility.

When Greenfield embarked on the current planning process in 2012, the City Council approved the application and funding for the planning grant. Well over 100 community members have contributed thousands of hours to this process. An 18-member community advisory committee met twice a month for two years to guide the project and ensure it reflects community interests. The building committee held public forums to get input on the preliminary architectural designs, and intends for that to be part of the process to finalize the plans for the new library. A community survey drew more than 600 responses and was used to help direct priorities in the planning for the library.

The survey results can be read here: https://greenfieldpubliclibrary.org/files/Bldg-Prog-4-28-15.pdf

Q: How much would a new library cost?

The new library cost has been estimated at $19.4 million. The state has endorsed the plan with a grant to cover $9.4 million for building the new library, and it is now up to voters to say YES or Greenfield will lose this grant. To make up for the balance of the costs, the city will pay approximately $8 million and the Greenfield Library Foundation will contribute $2 million.

Q: How big is the new library?

The plan for the new library is actually a modest one. The original plan was designed to comply with national library standards, which call for a library of 30,500 square feet to meet Greenfield’s needs, based on our population and current library use.

Mayor William Martin then objected to the size of the library and tasked the building committee to come up with a smaller plan. To do so required a special request to the state to allow a library building smaller than the guidelines indicate. That request was allowed. The current library plan is for a building that is 26,800 square feet. So, while some people have questioned the size of the new library, the truth is that Greenfield has been struggling for many years with a library building originally designed in 1797 as a home. Because of its layout and inadequate size, the building has been unable to meet the community’s needs. There’s more information on that here:


Q: Where would a new library be located?

The new library will be built on land that the city owns on Main Street, between the current library and the post office. It was a priority to build the new library downtown, on land owned by the city. The state grant may only be used to build at this location. If we change the location, we lose the grant.

Q: What about the fire station?

Greenfield needs a new fire station, and the city has known this for years.

“The study nearly six years ago stated the fire station is ‘no longer viable’ in its current setup. The location is too small for renovation or expansion and the lack of space also poses safety concerns. The fire station also does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.” (The Greenfield Recorder. Feb. 26, 2019)


The site identified for the new fire station is on land that the city already owns on Beacon Street. The grant for the new library includes funding for the demolition of the fire station.We can afford a new library and a new fire station. The city is doing well financially and for many years has planned these projects to fall in line with retiring debt in order to keep the debt load as low as possible in future years. The operating budget is at a level, and projected to be at a level, to be able to service debt and interest payments in the next ten years. 

“Moody’s reviewed Martin’s future debt plan, commenting that ‘the additional debt, while significant, should remain manageable dependent on how the debt is layered in as other debt matures.’ Potential future projects include a new library, anaerobic digester (funded from sewer fees), a fire station, and ongoing capital expenditures for infrastructure improvements and upgrades.” (The Greenfield Recorder. Sept. 26, 2019)


Q: What happens if the voters say no to a new library?

With a June 2019 assessment by the Massachusetts Office of Disability, the city has been put on notice that the

current building is in violation of state and federal accessibility requirements.

You can read that report here:


If the city does nothing, it will continue to be in flagrant violation of accessibility requirements. This leaves the city vulnerable to a multiple lawsuits. We have a responsibility to all of our citizens to make our library safe and handicapped accessible.

If voters do not approve the new plan, Greenfield will be required to renovate the current building and will end up with what could be a bigger bill for a much smaller library.

In the event that voters reject the new library, it is estimated that the city would have to spend about $8.6 million to renovate the old building. The renovation work would reduce the library’s usable space by 30 percent. We would end up with less than half the size of the planned new library.

Q: Would accessibility renovations really cost $8.6 million?

Once accessibility and safety renovations reach a certain cost threshold, we would be required to adhere to all state and federal building codes as if we were building a new building. Just fixing the ramp to the back entrance, making the bathrooms handicapped accessible, which includes demolishing the concrete ramps and walls in the basement, and making the two meeting rooms fire safe will take us well over that threshold.

To understand this situation, think of it this way:

When you switch on a light in your house, and the light comes on, you are satisfied that everything is in good working order. But with this public project, the old building will require retrofitting throughout all of its systems, including even the light switches, to comply with current building codes as if we were constructing a new building. So, even fixtures and systems that appear to the layperson to be adequate, will have to be replaced with fixtures that meet the most recent code requirements. This is just an example of why the costs of renovation become comparable to the cost of building a brand new building. The reasonable choice is building a new library.

This is not a simple fix. You can read more about the building code challenges:


You can see the detailed financial estimate of the renovation here:


During such a renovation, the library would be closed for a year or more.

Notes on funding

The state grant is exclusively for the building of the new library. None of the state grant can be used for renovating the current building. If we do not approve the library building project, we will lose $9.4 million because that money has to be returned to the state. This state money that came from Greenfield taxpayers, along with other Massachusetts taxpayers, would then be given to another community to build their library.

Similarly, all of the money raised and pledged for the library building project by the Greenfield Library Foundation is specifically directed to be used for the new library. 

Ultimately, the city faces similar spending. One choice gives us a brand new 21st century, energy efficient library that meets all our needs, the other choice leaves us with a library that will be completely inadequate. The new library is the only fiscally sensible choice.

Q: How many people really use the library?

• Over 400 visits each day

• 152,327 average visits per year

• 15,565 cardholders

• More than 9,400 people attended programs for adults and children in the most recent year

Q: What does the library provide?

Our library gives you access to books, CDs, DVDs, streaming video, e-books, newspapers, magazines, free passes to museums, fun and informative programs for children, teens and adults, and reference librarians available to help you with any question you can dream up. There is also a free service for homebound people who need delivery of library items.

If you don’t yet have a library card, just come in and ask at the desk.

However …

• There is no designated space for our teenagers.

• The children’s space is way too small and lacks facilities for programming.

• The meeting rooms in our current library are inadequate.

• There are not enough public computers.

• There are not enough spaces for quiet work and reading.

Although the library is a great public resource, both the services and the collections it can provide are limited by the building in which it is housed.

For more information about the resources available, go to:



Building a new library will be a boost to our downtown

New libraries constructed in Massachusetts have had increased daily usage of at least 25 percent. Like a major department store in a mall, libraries attract large numbers of people, creating economic opportunities for businesses and organizations in the surrounding area. Likewise, modern libraries with small conference rooms have become a hub for serving many local entrepreneurs and small businesses.

It will be well over a decade before we could possibly get state funding again, if at all. The new library is the right choice for your wallet and for a thriving downtown community.

Vote YES for the new library on November 5th, 20