The Gloversville Public Library is showing its age.
The dignified Carnegie structures, all masonry and big windows, is beautiful, but more than a century old.
“Sometimes you can feel a breeze inside,” said library Director Barbara Madonna.
Thanks to a state grant, some new life will soon be breathed into the old place. Madonna applied for a $200,000 grant from the Division of Library Development in September and recently heard from officials that the project will be funded. In a month or two, the money should be cleared for use.
The library has big plans for the money. Madonna said there are 16 large, arched windows in the library, all in disrepair. The grant, plus $90,000 from Friends of the Library fundraising efforts and a large, anonymous donation, will replace about half of those.
She described large gaps in the wood frames of some windows, especially those on the south side of the building. A few are big enough to see outside light through.
“One window is so bad we had to just bolt it shut,” she said. “Our library is basically secured by a single wing nut.”
Christine Pesses, president of the library’s Board of Trustees, was even more critical of the current state of the windows, describing them as rotting and warped.
“They don’t close tight in the winter and don’t open in the summer,” she said. “I wouldn’t use the term energy-efficient.”
This spring, Madonna said, the project will go out to bid. Though construction schedules will depend on weather and how quickly custom-arched windows are built, the project may be under way by fall.
Madonna and Pesses are pleased to see the funding, but said window replacement is just one small step in a very long remodeling project. Since 2008, a few hundred thousand dollars has been spent to rebuild the crumbling lobby, seal a leaky basement and restore aging masonry.
The new windows will help insulate the building, keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, but Madonna also hopes to do a major central air conditioning project.
“We’re still using the original 1904 boiler,” she said, “and there’s no air conditioning. In the summer, our computer room gets to 95 degrees.”
All the improvements so far are relatively small compared to what she hopes one day to add — an elevator. Only the first floor is handicap-accessible, which means only a third of the space can be fully used.
In order to install an elevator, the whole place would have to be brought up to code, including a new sprinkler system and new wiring, a major expense.
Though perhaps a bit small in the scheme of things, she said some new windows are a good step.
“We’re just lucky we get to keep our Carnegie library,” Madonna said, “I know a lot of them have been torn down.”
According to Mohawk Valley Library System Executive Director Eric Trahan, there are two other Carnegie libraries in the area, in nearby Amsterdam and Johnstown. Both were upgraded over the years, with Johnstown’s library fully restored in the 1990s.
Gloversville’s recent upgrades, according to Trahan, are in line with library benefactor and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s mission.
“Carnegie didn’t just build libraries,” he said. “He made sure the communities could support and maintain them.”