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City Council Discusses Library Move

By Shankar Mukherji

STAFF REPORTER

The Cambridge City Council met with citizens yesterday evening to discuss the possible relocation of the Cambridge Public Library’s Main Branch to Central Square. The controversy surrounding the potential move has been building since 1994, when the $30 million to $38 million proposal was first put forward.

The controversy over the location of the public library system’s main branch is centered on the issue of accessibility versus community impact.

Critics of the library’s current location on Broadway claim that the 12 to 15 minute walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station discourages those who would otherwise use the library facilities from doing so.

“Equal access to the new main library [will] create a new heart to the city,” said Cambridge resident Fran Warder.

Fellow resident Nancy Nye echoed Warder’s sentiments, saying, “There is fast access [to Central Square] by bus and subway.”

Those opposed to the building of a new main branch on the site of 65 Prospect Street based their arguments largely on the claim that the new building is not only unnecessary but that the library system would be worse off in Central Square.

“There is absolutely no reason why the library cannot be expanded without infringing on the building that already exists,” said Mary Platt, who is firmly opposed to the planned site on the corner of Prospect Street and Bishop Allen Drive. “The traffic on Bishop Allen Drive is horrendous.”

The meeting began with a presentation of a feasibility report, commissioned by the Cambridge City Council, by Eric Pfeufer of Pfeufer/Richardson PC Architects. “We have basically determined,” said Pfeufer, “that either of these sites (Central Square or Broadway) are feasible sites for construction of those facilities,” including the library and replacement parking lots, as the lots are currently used to ease the tight parking situation in Central Square.

Perhaps the highlights of the session were testimonials given by longtime resident Bill Jones and a neon-yellow-clad Peter Valentine.

Jones, reminiscing about the “good old days ” said that the Prospect Street plot would be better served by “more low-cost housing,” drawing cheers from those in attendance.

Valentine, on the other hand, claimed that “we need a world class symbol [of knowledge] in the city center. The library will be an aisle of peace” in the heart of Cambridge, Valentine said.