Bloomberg donates $3 million toward construction of new Medford public library

The temporary location of the Medford Public Library is pictured on Sept. 13. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

Medford native Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and a Democratic candidate for president in the 2020 campaign, donated $3 million toward the construction of Medford’s new state-of-the-art public library last month.

The new library, which is expected to open in the fall of 2021, will be named the Charlotte and William Bloomberg Medford Public Library after Bloomberg’s parents, who lived in Medford for more than 60 years.

Bloomberg expressed his contentment that the new library will be named after his parents, who visited the library often when they lived in Medford.

“It means a lot to Marjorie and me to have our parents’ names attached to an institution that was such an important part of our childhood, and that provides such important resources to people of all ages in our hometown,” Bloomberg said in a press release announcing the $3 million gift.

Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn emphasized that Bloomberg’s donation will make a significant impact in the Medford community.

“We are so grateful to Mr. Bloomberg and the [Bloomberg] Philanthropies for this amazing donation,” Lungo-Koehn wrote in an email to the Daily. “The new library will be a space for residents of all ages to use for reading, learning, gathering, and creating, and it will have such a positive impact on our entire community for generations to come.

Holly Sargent, executive director of the Medford Public Library Foundation (MPLF), the nonprofit organization established to raise private sector funds in support of the new library’s construction, expanded on the amenities that the new library will offer to the Medford community.

The library, of course, will be fulfilling its traditional purpose of ‘pathways to discovery’ with books, e-books, films, etc.,Sargent said. “But it also will provide a lot of other things for the community that the community doesn’t have.”

In addition to reading areas for adults, children and young adults, Sargent said that the new library, located on High Street, will feature a tech lab, a maker space, a multipurpose performance space, a local history room, a cafe and an outdoor terrace, among other amenities.

The new library was designed by Schwartz/Silver Architects and is being constructed by G&R Construction, a company based in Quincy, Mass.

The MPLF hosted a socially distant ice cream social in late August to celebrate Bloomberg’s donation and the campaign for the new library. C.B. Scoops and Colleen’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop, which are both located in Medford, served nearly 600 free cones in support of the new library.

People learned about the new library and celebrated a little bit about the Bloomberg gift, but also learned about how they could be part of the effort going forward,” Sargent said.

The old library, which opened in 1960, did not meet accessibility standards, had a leaky roof and lacked sufficient electrical outlets, according to Sargent.

In an effort to resolve the issues, community members gathered to help develop a plan for the new library and a grant proposal was submitted to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, a government agency that supports and regulates public libraries. The city received a grant of $12.2 million from the state shortly after, according to Sargent.

That was very exciting, but it also spoke to the grave need we had for the library,Sargent said.

She explained that, after the city received the grant, then-mayor of Medford Stephanie Burke asked for additional funding for the project, which was estimated to cost $34 million.

The MPLF worked in 2018 to raise an additional $4 million, according to Sargent. 

She indicated that Barry Sloane, president and CEO of Century Bank, and chairman of the MPLF, put together a board for the foundation, which included Rocco DiRico, director of government and community relations at Tufts.

Sloane also appointed Sargent to be the executive director and run the fundraising for the organization, according to Sargent.

She detailed that, after a group of contractors bid to get the job of building the new library, the winning contractor estimated that the project would only cost $27.5 million, lower than the original estimate of $34 million. 

The MPLF adjusted its fundraising target to $5 million, instead of $4 million. Bloomberg’s $3 million dollar gift contributed toward MPLF’s $5 million goal, according to Sargent. 

Sargent said that the MPLF has raised an additional $1.5 million in gifts. Currently, the foundation has a total of $4.5 million, as it works to reach its $5 million goal.

The MPLF has also received a pledge of $100,000 from Tufts University over five years, according to DiRico. 

DiRico explained that Tufts’ donation is just one way the university supports its host communities.

Tufts decided to donate to MPLF because we believe libraries provide access to opportunity for so many people in our community,” DiRico wrote in an email to the Daily. “Our donation will specifically help fund a technology commons that will help bridge the digital divide in the City of Medford.

This comes in light of a protest held in August by local Medford and Somerville constituents who oppose the university’s reopening plans and view them as putting the health of community members at great risk.