The main branch of the Schenectady County library system will be closed for 18 months during an expansion project, a library trustee said.
John Karl said no one knew that the library would be closed until clerk of the works Anthony Ward took a look at the plans two weeks ago.
“He said this design would not be practical to achieve without closing the library for 18 months,” Karl said. “When he saw the plans, he said, ‘We can’t keep it open.’”
County Legislator Karen Johnson confirmed the library will have to be closed, although she declined to say how long the closure would last. That won’t be announced until the county has come up with a solution, she said.
“None of us saw this coming,” she added, “but we should have. We’re talking about HVAC, electricity. … There will be times the building will be without electricity.”
Karl said the project simply cannot go forward with such a long closure.
“Closing the library for that period of time would be unacceptable,” he said.
But he and others seem to have reconciled themselves to the fact and are looking for ways to minimize the effects of the closure.
“The branches are not suitable to absorb much at all of our programs and services,” Karl said.
So the Friends of the Library and library staff met Tuesday night to discuss temporary library sites downtown.
“We were offered the top floor of the Carl Company building from Proctors,” Karl said.
He added that the county estimates it would cost $500,000 to make that space usable, particularly with Internet access, which is one of the library’s most popular services.
Karl said the group also discussed using the Annie Schaffer Senior Center, which has been closed for four years and might need substantial work.
“We’re trying to keep the services downtown,” he said. “A majority of the people who access our library are people who live in and around the area. Many of them come on foot. That’s a big concern — we have 1,400 people a day, what are you going to do with them?”
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