For more than a century, The Jones Library has been the hub and heart of Amherst. Samuel Minot Jones would have been pleased. Jones, an Amherst native, provided that the alternate beneficiary of his entire estate—$690,000 upon his death in 1912 (over $20M today)—should go to building a library when his son died in the flu epidemic of 1918.

From 1921-1926, The Jones Library comprised upstairs rooms in the Amherst House on Amity Street. When fire raged through the building, Amherst College students saved the Library’s books, passing them hand-to-hand onto the street. The fire jump-started the drive to use Samuel Minot Jones’ gift to build a magnificent library just across the street.

Around that time, a local professor summed up the mission of a public library: “A library should be something besides a polished and varnished depository for books and an educational lunch counter. A real library should undertake the job of stimulating the intellectual life of the whole community.” The Jones Library’s 260 seat theater was one way it did so, welcoming residents from throughout the Pioneer Valley. The Boston Globe called it “the only library of its kind in the country, and probably the world.”

More than its founders could have imagined in their print-bound world, The Jones Library has fulfilled that mission. Through Depression and war, our Town’s explosive growth and the dawn of the digital age, The Jones Library has proven worthy of Samuel Minot Jones’ generous gift.

the future of the jones

Now it is time again to upgrade the hub and heart of Amherst. In 2014, The Jones Library Trustees began an extensive public planning process to identify current and future needs. They found our beloved building in need of urgent preservation and modernization. The leaking atrium threatens building integrity despite repeated repair attempts. The obsolete heating and cooling system leaks onto irreplaceable Special Collections. The Jones Library building alone accounts for 20% of the natural gas use in all municipal buildings and no longer meets current standards for accessibility.

Programmatically, The Jones Library has outgrown its current space. Children’s activities are crammed into small rooms off the entrance. Teens are scattered throughout the building with no central place for their unique needs. Public computers are frequently completely occupied. ESL students are tutored at tables, in upstairs corners, even in stairwells. Each year, more than 1,000 programs convene in outdated and dilapidated rooms. Special Collections can’t keep all of its world-renowned holdings under climate-controlled and secure conditions, much less accept additions it is regularly offered.

Learn more about the renovation & expansion plans

“The Jones Library Building Project provides a valuable example of sustainable historic preservation, an essential component of successful climate action of the next 50 years.”

– Sara Draper, Sustainability Manager, Hampshire College
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