Building Project FAQ

IMPORTANT NOTE: This page is now being updated on the City’s website. Please check there for updates, or to subscribe to receive updates automatically. 7.13.2021

What’s this I hear about a library renovation (or renovation grant?)

A renovation/construction grant is available to libraries through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The City and Trustees decided to apply for the grant in order to improve services at the library – 34 communities in Massachusetts have applied. As of July 8, 2021, we have been awarded a $7.9M grant, pending City Council approval.

Because MPL is on the National Historic Register, the proposed renovation would allow us to preserve the building’s original beauty, while improving our ability to provide modern services and also addressing some critical safety and accessibility concerns. One of the improvements we’re hoping to accomplish would be a front entrance accessible to everyone. We would also like to create a separate area for teens, further from reference and closer to children’s services. Meeting and study spaces will be improved, including a dedicated meeting/program space for children’s services, a separate meeting/program space for adult services and larger programs for all ages, and small study spaces for individual or small group quiet study.


The library is beautiful – why do we need a new library?

Thank you! This is a preservation and restoration project as much as it is a renovation project which will allow us to preserve the beauty of the historic building while improving access and services. We do not need a “new” library — we need to preserve our historic feel, while modernizing our services as we look to the future. The need for improvements is tremendous, and this project will ensure that this historic building will be standing for generations to come.


With so many needs in Melrose, why is the library a priority? This seems like more of a want than a need.

The library is at a point of need in many areas. The HVAC is at end-of-life, the roofs need to be replaced, and the brick exterior needs to be re-pointed. Accessibility needs to be improved both outside and inside the building, and the flow of the building needs to change in order to accommodate modern services. Because we have been awarded this grant which would pay for a significant percentage of the work, this is a good time to move forward, rather than waiting until there is a crisis in the building, and no grant assistance available.

The library is also an important resource during extreme weather events. When residents need to escape the elements, many seek refuge in the library. As we are seeing more 90+ degree days as the years progress, a centrally located, accessible municipal building with reliable heating and cooling systems will be critical in helping protect our vulnerable residents.


Aren’t books going away? Why do we need a library?

Literacy in society has always been and continues to be a relevant and important part of a community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has become more evident than ever. Libraries are not only important educational institutions, but also a resource, cultural center and social hub. Libraries are indeed an essential service.

Books may go away someday, but it isn’t happening yet, and our renovated library will be designed to allow us to adjust our space as the physical collections change, so we can continue our mission to “provide a portal for all to explore, imagine and engage.” Public libraries bring communities together in a culture of lifelong learning and exploration — through a variety of formats.


Who is going to pay for this?

The City has been awarded a $7.9M grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and, if approved by the City Council, the project will be funded by a combination of the grant, the City, and fundraising efforts.


Have you already applied for the grant?

The City submitted a grant application at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) on January 27, 2017. In July 2017 the MBLC announced that Melrose was on the waiting list for a provisional grant award. Generally, a few libraries come off of the waiting list each year. In 2020, no new awards were announced due to difficulties posed by the pandemic. We were awarded $7.9M on July 8, 2021.


What will be different?

The entrances will be different, and the locations of some of the departments. We will have improved meeting spaces for all ages. The lighting will be more efficient. Youth services and the general reading and study areas will have more windows, providing improved natural daylight.  Significant improvements will be made to the building’s systems such as the roof and HVAC. Overall, many details will be different, but our focus on customer service will remain!


Are we getting more parking?

The parking lots will be improved, but we are unable to add parking due to the spacing limitations of our lot. We will continue to use the parking available on West Emerson Street, Lake Avenue, Myrtle Street, and the large municipal lot nearby.


Where will you go during the renovation?
Where we will be will depend on the timing of the renovation — because we don’t yet know when the City Council will approve the funding, we cannot enter into any sort of contract negotiation, or even much speculation as to what space might or might not be available when the time comes. Many libraries do not know exactly where their temporary location will be until within 6 months of the relocation! What we do know is that we will be somewhere – MBLC regulations require that we remain State Certified in order to keep the grant funds, and maintaining services is one of the requirements of certification.


How can I stay informed and involved?

This web page will be updated as we receive new information.