by Alex Sharp

Imagine a community gathering place in the center of South Deerfield where students from Frontier can hang out with their friends, study on new computers, and work on projects or presentations in a conference style room. This is the vision director Candace Bradbury-Carlin has for the future of the Tilton library.  

About five years ago the Tilton Library, then under the direction of Sara Woodbury, began planning an expansion project. Before applying for a grant a building committee made up of library staff and community members came together to assess the library’s needs.

“We went on field trips to other libraries and filled out forms about how big this library was and how much we had as far as books, movies, and dvds,” recalled Bradbury-Carlin.  “There’s a formula about how much space a library should have and how big your collection should be according to the size of the town. We definitely were way under because this library was built so long ago and the town has grown. We don’t really have the space we need to have for the people in this town.”

The Tilton library has long been plagued by a lack of space. Today, the area designated for young adults is a makeshift closet measuring less than 30 square feet.

After the building committee determined an extension was necessary Woodbury applied for a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). The library then hired an architect and a project liaison from the Boston area who have experience working with libraries in Western Massachusetts. Once the architect had created a design for the extension, the library applied for a construction grant.

Bradbury-Carlin estimates that the library found out it had been placed on a waiting list about a year and a half ago. Several libraries across the state, including the library in nearby Greenfield, MA are undergoing similar extension projects.

Bradbury-Carlin says that the Tilton Library is currently seventh on a waiting list for state funds and could be waiting up to three more years to receive a grant from the state. In the meantime, the library has undergone a successful capital campaign. Several donors from the community have pledged substantial sums of money to the extension project which Bradbury-Carlin says is crucial.

“The town of Deerfield has a budget and a lot of projects it would like to do. We want to make it as easy as possible for the town to afford a renovated library” said Bradbury-Carlin.

The Tilton Library’s expansion will create a variety of opportunities for students, just a two minute walk away from Frontier. Bradbury-Carlin said that the plan is for there to be a room designed specifically for teenagers to hang out and study in. There will also be a giant conference style room that students will be able to sign out and use for workshops, projects, or meetings. While Frontier’s library media center closes each day at 4:30, Bradbury-Carlin anticipates having the Tilton Library open until 8:00 at least a few times a week.

Although the expansion process has been long and tedious, Bradbury-Carlin is optimistic about that the library will eventually expand and provide more services for the community.

“This is a great town and we’re located right in the center. The library already is, but will be even more so, a community center for downtown Deerfield.”