Schenectady County children now have a wing in the Public Library’s Central Branch dedicated just for them.
The 6,700-square-foot addition was opened Monday in a ceremony at which members of the Schenectady County Public Library Board of Trustees, the Friends of the Library, major donors and Schenectady County officials were present. The wing has an open, warm and playful feeling, which architects J.T. Pollard and Mike Gamache said was their goal when they designed it.
“The new children’s space will allow the library to bring more creative programming to Schenectady County and expand our toddler and summer reading groups,” according to a library news release. “This expansion will make additional space available for technology services, including computer terminals.”
Windows take up much of the wall space, allowing natural light to brighten the wing. Bookshelves with labels like “picture books,” “easy readers” or “youth graphic novels” allow children to easily find the books that they’re interested in. A set of stairs wrap around the center desk and lead up to a mezzanine, where two study rooms and the new Esther Swanker Board Room are situated.
The wing was opened as a flock of children ran through and broke the commemorative ribbon, a long strip of paper colored and drawn on by children who visit the library.
“Today is a great day for county residents and a special day for our children now that they have their own area,” said Judith Dagostino, chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature. “It was a collaborative effort. Some of you may have heard this before, but our mantra has always been ‘Working together works,’ and it does. Look at what we’ve accomplished.”
Besides stressing the successful partnerships involved in the wing’s creation, a special thanks was given by many speakers to library board President Esther Swanker.
“Over the time that I’ve been engaged with this project, which I think was the last 10 years ... every time it needed another push, every time it needed someone to not give up faith, that person was Esther,” said Gary Hughes, chairman of the Committee on Education and Libraries.
moment of silence
In her speech, Swanker asked for a moment of silence to remember the late Steve Fitz, the previous president of the library board and the chairman of the building committee. She said Fitz did a great amount of work toward the new wing.
In an interview, she said that the library board and the county worked together on the project, which began about 10 years ago.
One of the original plans, which was later scrapped, required that the library be shut down for a year and a half.
“You can imagine that didn’t go over well,” Swanker said.
In late 2008, a committee was formed consisting of trustees, members of the Friends of the Library, county legislators and library staff members.
“And this is what we came up with,” Swanker said. “The last two years have been a real joy, because everyone agreed on everything and things fell into place.”
William Leitch, representing the Friends of the Library, said, “The Friends are 900 people strong. They’re hardworking people. They provided a lot of money to put together this wing, and it’s going to be worth it.”
There were several different groups that contributed funds toward the new wing. The Schenectady County Legislature contributed $1.5 million in county funds to be matched by private grants and donations secured by the Library Board of Trustees. The Wright Family Foundation committed $500,000, the Schenectady Foundation $100,000, and the Friends of the Library $250,000. Additionally, county funding of $2 million has been spent on upgrades already completed to the library’s heating and cooling, electrical, fire safety, ventilation systems and asbestos abatement.
“This has been a great example of a public, private partnership that works,” Hughes said.