Esther Swanker lives in Niskayuna, but the journey she took Thursday morning to the Schenectady County Public Library on Clinton Street took at least 10 years, countless hours and millions of dollars.
She was at the main branch to announce the start of a project to build a $3.5 million library addition designed specifically for children. The 6,700-square-foot, two-story structure, to be built in the parking lot adjacent to the library, will take approximately a year to complete and involve no interruption of services at the main branch.
“It is wonderful to be here — finally,” said Swanker, who is president of the library’s Board of Trustees. Trustees have wanted to expand the main branch for at least a decade but encountered roadblocks along the way. Some dealt with financing and some with oversight of the proposed expansion, which at one point had a price tag of more than $7 million and would have required the main branch to close for 18 months.
Eventually, the trustees, who administer the library, and the Schenectady County Legislature, which funds the system through taxpayers dollars, agreed on a cost and design.
County Legislature Chairwoman Judith Dagostino said the addition “is great for residents of Schenectady County and our children.”
County Legislator Karen Johnson, D-Schenectady, said the project became possible when trustees and the Friends of the Schenectady County Library ponied up $2.5 million and $320,000, respectively, toward the cost. The county will contribute $1.5 million toward the project. This is in addition to the more than $2.2 million it has spent to upgrade the central library’s original operating systems. The main branch was built in the mid-1960s.
Steve Fitz, chairman of the trustees’ Building Committee, said the new addition will serve generations to come.
“It will be a library for you, your children and your grandchildren,” he said.
Library Director Andy Kulmatiski agreed.
“What we are about to do here will be valued by the community 100 years from now,” he said.
County Legislator Gary Hughes said the main branch will also undergo a “face-lift,” which will include the creation of handicapped-accessible bathrooms, the addition of a handicapped-accessible elevator and a refreshing of the main lobby with new lighting and new flooring.
The 3,000-square-foot space in the main library currently housing the children’s section and used for children’s programming will be converted into space housing books and computers available to the public.
Local architectural firm Re4orm Architecture designed the contemporary structure. The front will feature a two-story wall of clear glass, the sides of opaque glass supported by pre-cast concrete buttresses. A two-story “monolith,” using bricks taken from the original library when the structures are connected, will front the structure.