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Ribbon cut on Islington Branch library

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Although it had already been open for some programs that didn’t require furnishing, last Monday afternoon, the Islington Branch of the Westwood Library officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony. 

Despite frigid temperatures, a large crowd gathered to listen to Town Administrator Chris Coleman and Chairman of the Select Board Michael Walsh briefly talk about the project. Noting how long the project had been underway, Walsh explained he had looked back on his notes earlier in the day and realized his first one was from 2016, when they first established a task force. But while the impact of the new building may be felt most strongly in the future, the land swap project is already having a major impact.

“I can tell you this,” Walsh explained to the crowd, “the real estate brokers tell me now [that] people ask to be on the Islington side for buying homes in Westwood.”

While the task force may have been formed in 2016, the Islington project can trace its inception back even further, all the way to 2014. According to Director of Housing, Community and Economic Development Nora Loughnane, who Chris Coleman deemed “the key team member who got this going,” they started planning in 2014, had a request for proposals out in 2016, the project was approved at a May 2018 town meeting, and the building has been under construction ever since. 

Unfortunately, when COVID caused supply chain issues, furnishing the building became very difficult, which caused an even longer wait. 

The project likely took a while because it’s a bit complicated. Essentially, the town traded land with a company that owned properties in Islington center to secure the land on which the new Islington Library sits.

To build the new town building, which houses a recreation space, branch library and the Department of Youth and Family Services, Westwood took the old building from across the street and reassembled it. So, although the new library will be the same size it was before, the move did allow planners to update it and create a new recreation space.

“They actually got the same space,” Loughnane explained. “They got a really nice, renovated space that’s handicap accessible and air conditioned, but it’s really the same space. We took the building that was across the street, we disassembled it and we reassembled it here on this side and put an addition on it. The addition holds the Youth and Family Services office, and this whole lower-level space. The old library didn’t have a public space in the basement. So now, we do have this.”

With the opening of the Islington Branch, the new library will have expanded hours. There’s also a bench from the old Islington Community Church in the hallway, which is a nice touch. When pressed on what activities will take place at the new branch, Chris Coleman explained that while it isn’t specifically designed for kids, the new location close to School Street Playground and Morrison Park makes it particularly ideal for them.  

While last Monday marked the ribbon-cutting of the new branch library, Coleman explained that there will be a formal dedication of the building in spring when it’s warmer. At that time, there will be more speeches and a plaque will be installed to commemorate the event. 

But when asked if there he had anything he wanted the people of Westwood to know about the project, Coleman’s answer was simple: “I think the biggest thing is come on in and check it out.”

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