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The library's distinctive two-story tower has issues.

North Adams Library's Tower Needs Help

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Trustees Nichole Gordan and Rich Remsberg rouring the tower last fall.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The most distinctive feature of the library, its tower, is becoming its weak spot. 
 
A leak in the tower, also called the belvedere, is causing structural damage and endangering the rooms below it. 
 
"The belvedere is in danger," Library Director Mindy Hackner bluntly told the library trustees last week. 
 
A recent energy audit conducted by Tighe & Bond raised some red flags. Hackner said the belvedere has been a concern of hers for a long time and that it is not weather tight.
 
"They were pretty insistent that something needs to be done," Hackner said. "I know I went up there and teetered on this little scaffolding and threw a piece of insulation up at the window where the wood has rotted. The glass has actually fallen down and pigeons, bats and everybody and their brother were up there."
 
She said Tighe & Bond recommended insulating the entire belvedere but did not go as far to provide a cost estimate.
 
She is also worried that if the belvedere continues to deteriorate, it will damage rooms below it. 
 
This sparked a sense of urgency and Trustee Rich Remsberg asked if the city was aware.
 
"That really worries me, and I would like to see that stabilized and restored," Remsberg said. "It seems like a legitimate city responsibility ... they can at least do something, so we don't have pigeons up there."
 
Hackner said the city does know of the issues in the belvedere and is working with the library to firstly clean it out.
 
"We have gotten as far as getting the surplus doors taken care of," she said. "Once we get it cleaned out we will call the City Yard, so they can take it all out ... I think we have taken a baby step."
 
She added that the city itself is short-staffed and spread thin. 
 
"They know about it, they know about the glass and where the leak is coming in," she said. "We run into a limitation with the building department with so few people ... and there are only three maintenance guys in the city right now … I think they are just overwhelmed and have a big list."
 
Hackner has noted in the past that a complete restoration of the two-story tower would likely cost upwards of $1.5 million.
 
"This is huge, and this is where we are running into trouble," she said. "This is a huge undertaking." 
 
Hackner said the Green Communities state grant, which funded the energy audit, likely wouldn't cover the belvedere but it was suggested to her to look into a Massachusetts Preservation Grant.
 
In other business, the trustees heard from Tara Jacobs and Mark Parris from the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, who said they plan to hold a cleanup day at the library June 23. 
 
"We are going to solicit community volunteers to help do some outside clean up," Jacobs said. "There are a whole bunch of things we want to do."
 
She said the project is part of an NBCC volunteer training program, however, their team plans to continue its support after the project is over and focus on raising funds to help restore the belvedere.
 
"We are all library lovers and we love the belvedere," she said. "We recognize the library has needs and we want to focus on the library."
 
Jacobs, a member of the School Committee, had approached the trustees last year about doing fundraising to renovate the tower and find a way to open to the public. One concept has been to use it as an observatory, in line with some of the legacy funds left by the late state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi for astronomy programming. 
 
One plan is to sell T-shirts with sponsors listed on the back; proceeds would go toward the tower. 
 
Jacobs added the event would also be a good opportunity to showcase the library, the trustees and the Friends of the Library. 

Tags: historic buildings,   NAPL,   

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