A referendum vote will be held on election day on the proposal to expand Mary Cheney Library into Center Memorial Park. The most recent design requires the net conversion of only .08 of an acre of the Park’s seven acres, much less than the original plans. The alarm raised by opponents that the park will be “ravished,” “destroyed,” “paved” – misleading at best – is now moot.
The plan is a win for both sides. While giving up a bit of the Park’s green space may still be a concern for some, it might help to know that Manchester has over 1,000 acres of parkland. The Cheney “Great Lawn” being the most recent addition. Giving up a minuscule slice of green space for the sake of a modern library in this central location is a wise compromise.
Another argument put forth against expansion in the park is that the Cheney family established the Park and wanted the area preserved as a park forever. That’s true, but they also promoted building the Library in that same park back in the 1930's. The original deed allows for additional municipal buildings in the northern part of the Park. Perhaps the Cheneys understood that one day the library would have to be updated and expanded.
The Cheneys promoted learning and community through their support of libraries and schools. Mary Cheney was a state of the art library in its time, but is no longer. They would be the first to demand a modernized library in the center of town.
Out of respect for our history, tradition, practicality and economics, the Mary Cheney Library needs to stay where it is – in Center Memorial Park. The library is as much a centerpiece of our downtown as is the Park. Both are important to our community. The library is an icon on Main Street and a symbol of our thirst for knowledge. It is popular with adults and children of all ages. It has the fourth highest circulation in the State – 1,000 people visit the library on the average day. That’s incredible. 1,000 people descend on the Main Street daily! That’s good for the community and good for business.
Jacinda Woodhead (Australian writer) wrote: “Libraries are not just warehouses that hold books. Libraries are hubs of learning and research, of interactivity and community – and this is what we have an obligation to preserve. How many free, comfortable places can one still go to to study? How many communal spaces are there in which learning, exploration and reading are fostered?”
Opponents cite the changing nature of libraries over time, pleading for more studies. But this issue has been discussed for more than a decade. All the studies show that Mary Cheney Library is outdated, lacks handicapped accessibility and is in need of additional space for new library functions. After years of debate, it's time to move forward on this project. It will benefit thousands of our citizens of all ages. Plus, we get to keep the Park!
I encourage Manchester voters to vote “YES” on the library referendum.