9 years ago the City Council turned down a plan for the expansion because it messed up the park and there was considerable neighborhood opposition in which it coexists with the High School.
The City Manager appointed the Library 21 committee to study the needs, location, etc and work with a broad cross section of the public to build support. I was a member of this committee. Between these two committees I have gone to almost 150 formal and informal meetings and gatherings! The work of this committee resulted in a recommendation to build a new library and to investigate alternative sites. Eventually the council chose the existing site (I lobbied hard for an alternative).
Architects were hired and a Design Advisory committee was appointed to work with the public and the architects. I am a member of that committee. Many iterations of site placement and other details yielded a good scheme that respects and improves the park, improves the high school campus and gives a large library (~95K sq ft instead of the current 35K) with a new building attached to the renovated old one. They are about to go out to bid with completion projected mid 2007 so they closed the old building and will temporarily move the contents to a currently closed school building.
So this event was a very important milestone. There was a Farewell Party there reported on by magid.
One of the interesting things in this library is that the land and money to build it were donated to the City of Cambridge ~1890 by Frederic Rindge who also gave them the land and money to build the current city hall. In his grant he specified that the 10 commandments and other words be on the wall and must be left there forever. For some reason there are 11 commandments. This wall is at the opposite end of the room where the brass band is playing.
There is an explanation posted next to the this explaining why it is there. I hope it never happens but there could be a very interesting court case about this.