A new chapter: Library in Easthampton changes its name


Staff Writer

Published: 03-03-2023 2:08 PM

EASTHAMPTON — As the board for the Emily Williston Memorial Library and Museum continues to take steps toward moving to a new location, they’ll also be using a new name — the Easthampton Public Library.

Elizabeth Appelquist, president of the library’s board of directors, announced during public comment at the City Council’s Wednesday meeting that the board has unanimously agreed to the name change.

“We’re working more closely now with the city and we feel that it’s important that we align our name with the city,” Appelquist said. “The new name emphasizes our commitment to the community and the bigger role that we hope to play as a community hub as we grow.”

In a related development, Mayor Nicole LaChapelle this week put forward a request to appropriate $510,000 from the city’s cannabis stabilization help fund to the library’s operational account. The additional money would come in the wake of presentations in January at which library leaders predicted a closure within five years without significant funding increases from the city.

Appelquist noted that the name change can help increase recognition of the library and avoid confusion with The Williston Northampton School, an independent boarding and day school for seventh- through 12th-grade students.

Moving forward, she says the new name will provide an opportunity to rebrand and launch a new marketing campaign that could potentially help increase awareness and usage of the library. In the coming months, the name will be changed on the website and social media, and a new logo will be introduced.

“The name change reinforces our public accountability and our desire for complete transparency,” she said.

In honor of the library’s founder, Emily Williston, the museum will now be called the Emily Williston Local History Collection and Archives.

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Appelquist told the Gazette that the library, which operates as a private nonprofit and funds the majority of its budget through an endowment, is maintaining its governance structure and still contracting with the city of Easthampton to provide library services.

The library is governed by the Public Library Association of Easthampton. The association is overseen by a group of corporators, which has a subgroup called a board of directors.

“The name change highlights the truth that we are a community service organization receiving public funds, open to all and for the good of all,” she said.

LaChapelle said that there is no intention or expectation that the Easthampton Public Library will become a city department.

The library’s board of directors made the decision to change the name last November, but held off announcing it until plans to move to a new location were further along. All board members voted in favor of the name change.

“This seemed like the perfect time for the announcement,” Appelquist said.

The board has been actively searching for a new space for the past year. Maintaining the current library, which opened in 1881, proves challenging the longer the building is used and the more repairs it needs, she said.

In January, she announced to the city’s Finance Committee that the board had received an offer from BankESB to take over a Main Street building they own — formerly occupied by Bank of America — for free. However, library leaders predicted a closure within five years without significant funding increases from the city.

Following the board’s presentation, community members were outspoken at the following City Council meeting, with several advocating for the city to help keep the library in operation.

LaChapelle’s request for $510,000 in new funding for the library, if approved, would be in addition to funding the city already provides. For the fiscal year 2021 budget, the city provided $216,466, which was 49% of the library’s operating budget. The request will be sent to the Finance Committee for review and then voted on at a public hearing on Wednesday, March 15 at 6:15 p.m.

“The library’s name change and probable move is done in the spirit of evolving. Easthampton clearly has an appetite for this evolution thus my appropriation request,” LaChapelle said in a statement.

Chuck McCullagh, who is an advocate for the library and the chief financial officer at The Williston Northampton School, called the potential funding “a great step” in addressing the library’s financial challenges. McCullagh also stressed the need to consider increasing the library’s funding in the future as the board determines whether it can potentially afford to take up BankESB’s offer.

“Timetable wise we just want to emphasize to everyone that we do need to think about Easthampton Savings Bank’s generosity, and that we try to move expeditiously in trying to make some of these decisions so that we can tell them that we can act on this,” he said. “We just want to not have that linger too much.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.]]>