‘What A Day! Supporters Gather To Break Ground On Town’s New Library [Photos]

Photo: Groundbreaking for the new Belmont Public Library

“What a day!” proclaimed Clair Colburn, chair of the Library Building Committee,speaking before several dozen residents, volunteers, town and elected officials who gathered in a gravel bed where, by (give-or-take) Thanksgiving 2025, a 40,460 sf.-ft., two-story zero-net energy structure will open its door and become the new home of the Belmont Public Library.

Under a warm and sunny Wednesday morning, June 13, the building’s future transformed from blueprints and perspectives to heavy machinery and construction workers as library and town officials turned over soil during the official groundbreaking ceremony for the $39.5 million structure, with $5 million offset from 991 individual donor contributions.

“We are so happy to be celebrating the groundbreaking of this momentous project with all of you. There is not enough time to thank everybody who has helped bring this project to fruition,” said Colburn.

For Kathy Keohane, chair of the Board of Library Trustees, it’s been nearly a quarter century of quiet determination as she was involved with three earlier library proposals that fell to the wayside. On Wednesday, Keohane brought her toy “olympic” flame symbolizing three important aspects of the project: the journey, individual performances, and teamwork.

“We are on a journey. We’re at this milestone,” she said. “Most of all, this has been a labor of love and effort by many, many teams, individuals working together to make this happen.” She noted the work of Town Moderator Mike Weidmer in creating a building committee “that helped us get the right individuals with the right talent on the team,” and from the library’s leadership of Director Peter Struzziero and his staff “for all they do to make the library such a valuable, engaging place.”

Kathy Keohane, chair of the Board of Library Trustees, and Library Director Peter Struzziero

Finally, Keohane thanked “the residents and the patrons of the library. You have made us the 10 best circulating library in the state of Massachusetts. We are the little train that could behind giants of Newton and others but it’s because of your love for the library and what it means to you.”

State Sen. Will Brownsberger noted that “this generation of volunteer leaders, partnering with our wonderful professional staff, has driven a program of capital upgrade and improvement or replacement that was just very fundamentally necessary to being the community we want to be.”

Speaking for the Select Board, Vice Chair Elizabeth Dionne said the library will be more than a repository of media and books. “Perhaps its most important service will be to foster an ongoing sense of community as town demographics change, and we seek means a greater connection and belonging. And the new library will allow this to happen.”

Clair Colburn, chair of the Library Building Committee

“It will also serve as a visible signal of Belmonts commitment to community, whether that is supporting young children in their early development, parents needing support raising those children organization seeking space in which to meet or adults of any age who simply need to see a friendly face,” Dionne said.

“It will be a lynchpin of the town’s completely renovated, academic and recreational center,” said Dionne, joining the Underwood Pool, a new skating rink set to open in 2025 and the middle and high school.

With shovels in hand and ready for photographs, Colburn was prepared to “look forward to an incredible future. Thank you again for your support over the many years and onwards,” said Colburn.

Belmont Invited (With Proper Footwear) To The Groundbreaking For The New Public Library Wednesday, June 12

Photo: Poster for the groundbreaking for the new Belmont Public Library

With the proposed Municipal Skating Rink receiving the bulk of the news since February, residents’ attention finally crosses Concord Avenue in what’s being called an “exciting week” for Belmont’s new library.

At 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 12, the Belmont Public Library Building Committee will host the official groundbreaking for the new library at 336 Concord Ave. Being built on the site of the former facility, the 41,500 square foot, two-story structure is expected to be completed by the fall of 2025.

The celebration is open to the public, but there is one requirement for attending: please wear closed-toe shoes. It is a construction site!

One day before the groundbreaking on Tuesday, June 11, the building committee is anticipating some “additional exciting news” it will be able to share.

As Building Takes A Final Tumble, New Library Moving Along As Trustees Near Fund Raising Goal

Photo: The demolition of the former Belmont Library building is underway

Nearly 50 years after opening its doors to generations of patrons, the red-brick and wood framed Belmont Public Library is coming down on the first days of Spring as part of the demolition process that will soon be followed by the construction of a new library on same site.

Lead by demolition contractor American Environmental which bid $873,711 for the job, a great deal of the work is being done by a heavy-duty excavator, pushing down walls and ripping out floors placing the debris in piles that will soon take what remains of the two-and-a-half story structure away to landfill. A large industrial misting fan sprays a cloud of water over the site to keep the dust from enveloping Concord Avenue.

As the former library comes down, the Library Building Committee is preparing to accept bids by the end of March from firms to lead the construction phase and award the contract in early April.

Kathy Keohane, the chair of the Belmont Board of Library Trustees is optimistic the construction bids will follow the pattern of the demolition and moving contracts coming in “a bit under” the estimated cost.

“There’s been strong interest out there from firms, so much so we pushed the timeline out a week at the request of one of the bidders because they wanted more time,” said Keohane.

As the 42,500 sq.-ft. project – which will take an estimated 18 months to complete – will soon get underway, Keohane came before the Select Board on March 18 to present the town with $30,000 in contributions from Belmont residents, library patrons, and businesses towards building the library. So far, more than 1,000 individuals and groups, as well as funds from a state American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant, have raised a total of $3.2 million towards the trustees’ stated goal of raising $5 million to defray the cost of the new library.

“The money flows through a fund that was set up by the library trustees … to ensure that all funds that come in designated for the project are given to the project,” Keohane told the board. After the presentation, Keohane said she is hopeful the remaining $2 million will be secured soon.

People can still donate,” said Keohane. “There’s still an opportunity for them to have their name on the wall or to sponsor a certain area of the library.”

League’s Brown Bag Lunch To Update Public On New Library’s Future And

Photo: The Belmont Public Library, circa 2025

The Belmont League of Women Voters is holding its next Brown Bag Lunch on Friday, Dec. 1, from noon to 1:30 p.m., the subject will be an update on the Belmont Public Library while the new library building is constructed.

Bring your lunch; the lunch will be virtual, so members and the public can join from home.

Kathy Keohane, chair of the Board of Library Trustees, and Library Director Peter Struzziero will discuss and answer questions on a wide array of topics, including the demolition of the current structure and construction of the new library, the status of programming and events, as well as an update on the relocation of books and services during the year-and-a-half it’s being built.

The lunch will be virtual by going to the League’s website and on Zoom:

The meeting is open to the public, so please invite friends.

One Final Shindig As Belmont Public Library Building’s Last Day Set For Wednesday, Nov. 22

Photo: On this day, writing on the wall of the Belmont Public Library was welcomed

The writing was on the walls … literally!

Adults, teens, and children got one last chance to write a fond farewell as the Belmont Public Library was given a final shindig on Saturday, Nov. 18, to celebrate the nearly 60 years it has been in the brick building on Concord Avenue.

“You can write on the wall, or you can write in the book. Tell us about your memories of the library while you’re saying goodbye,” said Kathy Keohane, a member of the Library Building Committee and chair of the Belmont Board of Library Trustees, as the building’s last day of operation will be Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Kathy Keohane, a member of the Library Building Committee and chair of the Belmont Board of Library Trustees

Holding a plastic “torch” representing something similar to the Olympic flame, Keohane told patrons and supporters that overflowed the library’s Community Room that it took an Olympian effort to reach this point

“Let’s celebrate this accomplishment in reaching this milestone … and looking toward the future for your wonderful building concerns all in Belmont for years and years to come,” said Keohane earlier.

After the closing, the library will “reopen” in temporary spaces around town:

  • Benton Library: Children’s collection
  • Chenery Upper Elementary: Staff location
  • Beech Street Center: Adult services and circulation

For a complete list of answers to frequently asked questions on the library’s temporary services, head to the library’s dedicated page on the subject.

The building committee’s target is to start to move out of the building and into the temp spaces beginning the week of Dec. 4. with the hope of running full services from those locations by Jan. 1.

After the library’s closing, “You can always reach us online chat. We have set up a new phone number on our website. We’re really trying to get through providing information to people in as many ways as we can,” said Keohane.

There will be a community update on Wednesday, Nov. 29 which will provide more detail about “where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going” relating to the library building project, she said.

As for essential dates, Keohane said demolition of the existing library will begin just after the New Year in January, with the start of construction in the March/April timeframe.

Just remember, when the new building opens in the spring of 2025, please don’t write on the walls.

‘Final’ Belmont Library Fall Book Sale Set For Saturday/Sunday, Sept. 24 and 25

Photo: The book sale of the Friends of the Belmont Public Library

This weekend, the Friends of the Belmont Public Library is hosting the “final” Book Sale in the current library building.

The sale hours are:

  • Saturday, Sept. 23: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 24: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Buy a geat number of great, new to you books and media while supporting the Friends who support the library in so many ways!

Despite Opposition, Select Board OKs Library’s Children’s Room Move To Benton Library During Construction

Photo: Residents in the que to speak about the temporary transfer of the Belmont Public Library’s Chirldren’s Room to the Benton Library.

It was past William and Kate’s bedtime, but their mom, Jess Hausman, decided it was worth missing some shuteye to present their letters before the Belmont Select Board to keep the children’s room open as the new Belmont Public Library is built.

With the demolition of the library just months away, the Hausman family and other residents brought their worries that the children’s room and its services were still up in the air due to residents’ concerns.

“Dear Select Bood – Plees ceep the chidrins sechsins open,” wrote Kate, 6.

“I saw my younger child go through the process of becoming an early reader this summer. A critical aspect was her looking through and selecting her own books,” said Hausman in prepared remarks. “Fluency in reading and interacting with books should be cultivated in childhood,” said Hausman.

By the end of an hour of presentations, William, 8, and Kate will be able to peruse and check out books at the independent Everett C. Benton Library after the Select Board unanimously approved temporarily transferring the Jane Gray Dustan Children’s Room collection to the independent library on Oakley Road during the construction of the new public library.

“Very excited to see the Benton this way,” Kathleen Keohane, chair of the Board of Library Trustees, told the Belmontonian after the board’s decision on Monday, Aug. 7.

Later at the meeting, the Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding in which the town will manage the library at 75 Oakley Rd., on the corner of Oakley and Old Middlesex roads. The town will return the building to the Friends of the Benton Library’s board with the completion of the new public library in the summer of 2025.

With the closing of the Public Library rapidly approaching, it was imperative for the trustees to find alternative locations for its services. While new locations for adult circulation and services (Beech Street Center) and staff (Chenery school) were easy to settle on, it took most of the summer working with town officials and the board of the non-profit Benton Library to hammer out a deal to bring the children’s collection to the former branch library.

Finding a home for the children’s room was the final critical component of the trustee’s pre-construction plans. Without a dedicated space for children’s services, the Belmont Library system would likely lose its state certification and membership to the Minuteman Library Network and likely forego state funds.

But the trustees’ plan hit a snag as abutters and neighbors of the library roundly criticized it during a presentation before the Select Board in late July. While adamant that neighbors were not against the library using the facility, several residents said the area could not accommodate the anticipated influx of vehicles bringing children to the Benton with the proposed 50 hours, compromising the safety of both neighborhood and visiting children and other pedestrians.

After the first Select Board meeting, Keohane met with three neighborhood representatives. But it was apparent to Keohane that the residents weren’t especially interested in an actual compromise. One of the residents, Marc Caporini of Indian Hill Road, speaking at Monday’s meeting, told the board that negotiations on the prospective hours must start with a “pilot” program with 20 hours a week, a two-thirds cut in the current children’s hours, which the trustees quickly deemed unpalatable.

Belmont Board of Library Trustee Kathy Keohane

Finding its partner unwilling to dance with them, the trustees created their own mitigation blueprint to meet the Select Board’s demands of lessening the impact of the library program on the neighborhood.

After an initial goal of 54 weekly hours was scrapped at the Select Board’s insistence, the updated agenda calls for 39 operating hours over six days including two days with evening hours, with the Benton closed on Sundays. Currently, the Benton is open five days a week for a total of 19 1/2 hours. Due to the building’s small size – the interior is a mere 900 sq. ft. – programs and events will be held off-site. The site will be staffed with three to four library employees, half taking public transportation to the Benton.

A working group will be established where residents, the Benton board, the town, and the library can facilitate ongoing communications and collaboration, said Keohane.

“This is a substantial change to what we had initially proposed and what we have today, and we think this [plan] is acceptable,” said Keohane. While acknowledging the transfer is an imposition on the residents, residents noted the library’s “big ask” of the neighborhood is not a permanent one.

“This is very temporary,” said Anne Paulsen, a former Select Board member. “We all need to pull together to make sure that our library and its programs function just as they have all along.”

“Most of us line in neighborhoods that are impacted by traffic and have been impacted by traffic during construction. We lived through it and you move on. It works,” said Paulsen who lives on School Street.

The neighbors opposing the suggested hours reiterated their concerns of safety and impact on the surrounding streets.

Lenna Garibian, an immediate abutter of the Benton, told the board that as a supporter of the current Benton setup since 2011, she hoped that the 20-or-so residents who make up those concerned with the plan would be part of the solution.

“We have always felt that we had a responsibility and a role in having the solution. We are here to help find a solution. We just believe that we should be part of a solution,” said Garibian.

Unlike the previous meeting when the neighbors filled the room, library supporters came out in force both in person and via Zoom. Amy Checkowey, a neighbor and school committee member, noted that for many families with young children is their “first and primary touch point to connect to the Belmont community” is through the Children’s Room. The trustee’s plan for “this critically important town service” exists using a community asset “willing to partner” with the Belmont Public Library.

And it’s not just the books on the shelves that is needed, said Iris Ponte, the director of the Henry Frost Children’s Program on Pleasant Street.

“[Today] I can look to Deborah [Borsuk, Coordinator of Children’s Services] and say, ‘We need to learn about cats, and ‘boom’ she’s got all the books that are on the computer and ordering them,” said Ponte who was speaking for her fellow early education teachers and day care professional.

“What we need is very highly trained, caring staff that we’ve been working with for year to help us courate these books so we can bring them back to the students.”

After the discussion of concluded, Board Member Mark Paolillo spoke for the board saying the new plan “is a fair compromise.”

Nor is the hours and days “set in stone,” according to the Select Board’s Elizabeth Dionne. “I think we all need to accept this process. They could evolve.”

Town Sets Up Cooling Centers During Current Heat Wave, Thursday Through Saturday

Photo: It’s gonna be like down south for the next three days

Beat the heat at a pair of Belmont Cooling Center this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; July 27-29.

Due to the upcoming period of high heat and humidity, the Beech Street Center at 266 Beech St. and the Belmont Public Library at 336 Concord Ave. will be open as cooling centers.

The hours will be as follows:

  • Beech Street Center: Thursday, July 27: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday, July 28: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Belmont Public Library: Thursday, July 27: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,  Friday, July 28: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, July 29: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The town encourages everyone to stay cool and hydrated, and check on elderly friends and neighbors who, along with others, may need help during this period of high heat and humidity.

Board OKs Underwood ‘Ditch’ As New Library’s Staging Area After Dusting Off An Old Deed


It would seem to be a simple ask by the Board of Library Trustees of the town at the Select Board meeting on June 17: allow the 33,000 sq. ft. sunken area between Concord Avenue and the Underwood Pool to be used as the staging area for the new Belmont Public Library construction.

The “ditch” – now referred to as the “Golden Bowl” by some – is town land, and the board expressed support for the plan to allow parking and temporary storage at the site to assist with building the $39.5 million facility beginning in November.

But first, town officials needed to trip into the Town Hall’s former lock-up. The one-time jail is today where the Town Clerk stores essential historical documents. And it was where Town Administrator Patrice Garvin rummaged through looking for a century-old deed.

“We found it in the vault,” said Garvin.

In 1911, the site was part of a large swath of land running from School Street to Concord Avenue that was deeded to the town by one of Belmont’s wealthiest citizens, Henry O. Underwood of deviled food fame, in exchange for a parcel of town-owned adjacent to his residence on School Street.

The deed stated the land would be restricted for recreational use. Part of the agreement was that he would build a playground – the Underwood playground on the hill next to the pool – a bathhouse and the first public outdoor swimming pool in the United States opened in 1912.

Finding the document was critical to determine if the site could be used for this new use, said Garvin, as the deed came with a series of restrictions on how the land could be used. As most residents know, the rectangular area is flooded during the winter and becomes a place for skating and playing hockey (although, in recent years, that activity has been limited to a few days due to warmer-than-usual winters).

When the Trustees first came to the town with the request, the town contacted Town Counsel George Hall, “and that’s when we happened to find the original file,” said Garvin. One of the file documents is a ruling by the town’s attorney from 1962 “that the property in front of the pool as the Select Board deems.”

“I showed this document George Hall … and on a temporary basis, given this opinion, it would be [an appropriate use],” said Garvin, who asked the board to make their approval contingent that the town continues to have direct access to the culvert that runs behind the library before heading underground along the pool, under Concord Avenue before emptying into Clay Pit Pond on the Middle and High School campus.

Tom Gatzunis of CHA, the library’s project manager, said the “Golden Bowl” will be used from the winter of 2024 to the early summer of 2025 during the construction phase. Gatzunis said the library’s current main parking lot would become the “laydown” area while the “bowl” would be used primarily for contractor parking and the contractor trailers. The ground – which is somewhat swampy during most of the year – would have a gravel and stones-base spread over the site. Gatzunis said it would be up to the town if it would want to keep the gravel/stone floor or have it reverted to the “muddy” ground.

Gatzunis said about 60 vehicles are expected to visit the site each day. He also revealed that the site would likely be the parking site for construction workers of the new Belmont Skating Rink that is being constructed across Concord Avenue at the same time as the library.

Belmont’s First Town-Wide Yard Sale Set For Sept. 23

Photo: Belmlont Town-wide Yard Sale ready for the first weekend of the fall

The Belmont Public Library, the Council on Aging, and the Recreation Department are hosting what they hope is an annual Town-wide Yard Sale.

The event is scheduled for the first Saturday of fall, Sept. 23, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (the rain date will be Sept. 30). Households will register online at BelmontRec.com; the cost is $15 per house address. A map will then be produced with every location of a participating household.

What is a Town-wide Yard Sale? Think of it as Porchfest, but instead of musicians at locations across town, you’ll clean out your garage and basements and sell the contents on a specific day with everyone else in the community. Belmont will join municipalities across Massachusetts and the country hosting these tag sales, including Watertown, Burlington, Wellesley, North Reading, and Wilmington.

“This will be an event focused on the recycling of goods, community fellowship, and highlighting of the local business community,” Peter Struzziero, Belmont Public Library director, told the board. He also said, coincidently, the library will be holding its annual book sale that weekend.