Schenectady County

Group ponders fate of Adirondack library collection

Protect the Adirondacks! will try to hang onto its library collection and the Schaefer house as l


Protect the Adirondacks! will try to hang onto its library collection and the Schaefer house as long as it can, though the organization is struggling financially.

“We’re racking our brains trying to figure out different ways that the library can continue here,” said Peter Borrelli, president of the organization.

Borrelli said there are three basic options: the Adirondack Research Library remains at the Paul Schaefer house at 897 St. David’s Lane; it moves to another location, possibly for integration into an academic program, library system or museum; or the “worst-case scenario” — the collection is split up for use by other organizations.

Right now, they’re working hard to make the first option a reality.

“A lot of money was raised and spent to put it here. That’s where we’d very much like to have it remain,” Borrelli said. “By the end of the year, I’m hoping that there would be a preliminary plan for the future of the library.”

The collection includes an impressive floor-to-ceiling relief map of the Adirondacks; histories of the region, including towns, villages and private clubs; rare books from the 18th and 19th centuries and early travelers’ accounts; official maps and reports from government agencies; reports from other private conservation organizations; more than 100 volumes from Paul Schaefer’s Wilderness Archives, including photos and letters; rare maps; and records on more recent controversies in the Adirondacks.

At this point, he’s not sure whether the group will be able to afford to keep up the Schaefer home, but said selling it is “not on my radar screen.”

“If we can’t afford the building, then somebody else will get the building.” He declined to comment on a report from a board member that Union College might be interested in operating the center or the library.

Protect the Adirondacks Inc. owns the 2-acre property, which is bordered on two sides by a 111-acre bird sanctuary, a private forest owned by the Hudson Mohawk Bird Club. The town has assessed Protect’s property at $573,000; it is tax-exempt and zoning requires it be used for a wilderness library.

The building is 6,367 square feet, including the original Schaefer home built in 1934 and a 4,013-square-foot addition built in 2004.

“My general observation has been that it has been under-utilized,” Borrelli said of the building, adding that the organization also needs to do a better job of getting the word out about the library collection.

In the meantime, the group continues to hold lectures on relevant topics — one was held Tuesday evening. “I’d like to see more of that going on here,” Borrelli said. “There’s so many topics [that] there could be a lecture every night.”

Borrelli confirmed that the organization’s three full-time staffers would be laid off by the weekend to move onto other jobs, and said other workers such as the ecologist, librarian and archivist are independent contractors, not employees. Volunteers will run Protect, and if the organization is going to survive, it will have to change, he said.

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