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KML Grand Opening Festivities

Kids Fun: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Music Programs: 1 p.m.

Homecoming Dance (all ages): 3 to 5 p.m.

Human chain book brigade: 8:45 a.m. Ffyler Place

The second decade of the new millennium was a tough period for the Kent Memorial Library, but the clouds have cleared, and if all went as seemed likely at the Observer’s press time, there would be a grand reopening on June 29. A fresh, restored, accessible library would be serving Suffield.

It all started in September 2011, when library operations moved to very constrained quarters in the back end of the Town Hall, clearing the way for a project that had been needed for years: a new roof, with good seals around the roof monitors. Library Director Jim McShane took advantage of the down time for some changes inside, removing some of the book alcoves and creating an expanded children’s room on the upper level. Library operations moved back home with a grand reopening in April, after only seven months.

But almost immediately, planning started for more significant changes needed after 40 years: an entirely new HVAC system; new wiring and plumbing[LS1]; new, safer windows; fire sprinklers; and most importantly, a new entrance wing with an elevator, a stairway, and two ADA-compatible bathrooms. When the building closed in October 2014 for this work, operations moved to rented space on Ffyler Place, larger than the swing space in 2011 but only about a quarter of what had been provided by the “big house” at 50 North Main Street.

All the rest of the alcoves were removed, and there was a general upgrading throughout. The most prominent change was, of course, the new entrance wing, supported significantly by a grant from Suffield expatriate Michael Zak, hence the name: “Mary Anne Zak Entrance.”

This work was drawing to a close in March 2016 when, as an Observer headline put it, “Persistent PCB Pauses Library Program.” It took three more years and over one and a half million dollars to evaluate the problem, identify the most likely cause, plan the remediation, and reach the conclusion documented in a 2,145-page report in April 2019. There were still some tasks to complete, but First Selectman Melissa Mack announced at the May 1 Selectmen’s meeting that the grand reopening would happen on June 29.

New and old furnishings and cartons of books were delivered from suppliers and various storage locations. The temporary library went on limited hours so staff could begin to unpack and enter each returned book into the computer system. Library service was closed on June 12 to concentrate on the move. In the meantime, staff, members of the Library Commission, and members of the Friends of the Library had been planning to celebrate the reopening.

Barring a surprise delay, by the time this issue of the Observer is delivered the long-awaited event will have occurred, with little Marshall Boone, 4, and his sister Charlotte, 7, helping Melissa Mack cut the ceremonial ribbon after the speeches. They won the contest for the privilege. (Is Marshall allowed to handle scissors?) The eponymous Mary Anne Zak and her son Michael, a major donor to the project, were expected to be present, along with many others. Earlier that morning, the remaining books at Ffyler Place were to be relayed by a book brigade, passed hand-to-hand up Mountain Road, through the Farmers Market on the South Green, and across the street to the library.

A public party was to follow, with entertainers, balloons, food, music – even dancing in the Main Street lobby. Library Director Jackie Hemond and her staff provided a surprising amount of library service  during the long drought. That’s worth celebrating, too.

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