One more promising, if long overdue, sign that Mason Square will, indeed, get back a full-fledged library this fall: a report in this morning’s Springfield Republican that the Urban League of Springfield, which has occupied the former library site at 765 State St. since 2003, will be moving in the next month or so.
For residents who’ve been anxious for the library’s return, the news is frustratingly light on details: at this point, Urban League President Henry Thomas is only saying that his agency will move some time in June or July.
And it’s hard not to be somewhat annoyed by the language employed in the article’s headline: “Urban League agrees to move.” In fact, the Urban League was ordered to move, last August, by the City Council, which took the property by eminent domain more than six years after the secretive deal between what was then known as the Springfield Library & Museums Association and the Urban League, which paid just $700,000 for a building that had recently undergone a $1.2 million makeover (about half of it paid for by city bonds).
It’s, perhaps, easy to see why the Urban League snatched up that deal—and why it’s taken its sweet time getting out of 765 State St. But along the way, the agency has been the target of considerable animosity for its willingness to improve its own fortunes at the direct expense of the community it’s supposed to serve. The Urban League has loudly protested the eminent domain taking, and claims it might sue the city.
The Urban League does not yet have a permanent new home, but instead will move into a temporary space for the time being. Its relocation costs will be covered by the Springfield Library Foundation, a non-profit that controls a trust fund earmarked for library services in Mason Square; the foundation will also pay the agency $800,000 for the building.
The newly restored Mason Square library is due to open in the fall.