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Turning the page

Library building, programs changed with technology

May 22, 2011
By RODNEY MINOR , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - It's been 100 years since the library in the city owned its building.

While much has changed in that time, Gloversville Public Library Director Barbara Madonna said, the outside of the library still looks much like it did all those years ago. It is on the inside the biggest changes have taken place, she said.

"Obviously, the technology [in the library] is one of the biggest differences," Madonna said.

Article Photos

The Gloversville Public Library is shown Thursday.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

The library's Board of Trustees has been working for months to get ownership of the building, property and adjacent parking lot transferred from the city to the library administration.

Madonna said City Attorney Anthony Casale informed her he plans to prepare a resolution for the Common Council to consider at its meeting Tuesday that will transfer ownership of the property. If the resolution is approved there will be a public hearing in June, she said.

Casale could not be reached for comment.

If the transfer goes through, it wouldn't be the first time the library owned the property.

The library, which opened in 1905, was owned by its administration until 1911. That year, the Common Council halted its appropriation to the library until arrangements were made for ownership of the building to be transferred to the city from the library.

At that point, the city granted the Library Association a 99-year lease that stipulated a yearly $5,000 appropriation from the city and granted exclusive use to the Library Association as long as it remained a library promoting "the happiness and welfare" of people in the city, according to the agreement.

Owning efficiency

In 2005, voters chose to establish the library as a school district public library with elected trustees and a tax levy from Gloversville Enlarged School District taxpayers.

By owning the building, Madonna said, it will make it easier for the library's administration to apply for grants, have work done efficiently and plan for the building's future.

"We're not irrelevant because of technology," Madonna said. "We are changing to fulfill our mission. [Technology] has not eliminated need for public library in the community ."

Looking at an annual report from the library in 1906, Madonna noted the library at that time had reading rooms everywhere.

"People would come in and sit down and read all day," she said.

The library essentially has three reading rooms now, Madonna said, and only one is actually called the reading room.

Also, the library had a number of study clubs in 1906. Club members would get together and talk about a specific topic during the course of a year, she said, sometimes bringing in speakers.

The library now serves as more of a community center, she said. The library is a place where people can research topics in books or online, or take part in groups such as the recently formed knitting club, or listen to a live musical performance in one of the rooms.

"People want our library to serve as more of a community center," she said.

Madonna said a couple of key findings came out of a meeting the library had with members of the community in 2008 to talk, among other topics, about the library's future.

The first was that people want the library to function as a community center. The second was that people wanted the library to stay at its building on East Fulton Street.

"The [library] is an anchor for downtown," Madonna said, describing the input people gave from the meetings. "We need to stay here."

Of course, she noted, that means the library has to find a way to be a community center while staying in a building that is more than 100 years old.

The library hosts a number of programs, including book discussions, crafts and stories for children, live music performances, and talks about a variety of topics including the Iditarod.

"The strong response to programs we offered this spring tells me there is a need [for the library] and we are responding appropriately," Madonna said.

Christine Pesses, president of the Board of Trustees at the library, said the concerts and other monday evening programming - including a Facebook class - received a very strong response.

"Libraries are not just books anymore," she said.

Over the years, a variety of work has been done on the building to make it open for more programming. The work has ranged from adding internet access to installing a handicap entrance.

Madonna noted the library has invested about $500,000 in the building during the last 10 to 15 years.

While there is no construction planned for the next year or so, Madonna said, a master renovation plan is being designed to guide the library in the future. The schematic design being done will give the administration a look at the strengths, weaknesses and deficiencies of the building, she said, and give them an idea of what work needs to be done to enable changes and improvements to future programming.

For example, Madonna said, when concerts are downstairs other activities that normally take place in that room may not be available. If the second-floor could be made handicapped accessible, she said, it would allow those activities to continue uninterrupted.

If all the floors in the library could me made accessible, Madonna noted, that would give the administration about 16,000 square feet of space to work with. It currently has 6,000 square feet.

Madonna said there is not timeline for the master plan to be finished by.

"These projects can take a long time," she said, noting the years projects at other libraries and school districts have taken.

The library, which has about 100,000 visitors every year, is also taking a look at how programming may change in the future.

Madonna noted the member libraries in the Mohawk Valley Library system are investigating the e-book phenomenon, and how it could be managed by libraries and patrons.

"We are definitely responding to technology," she said.

Pesses noted in a column in April that the library has expanded its hours and services this year. In addition to having more computers available for public use, the library also has added a part-time programming coordinator.

"If you attended our Facebook class in February, our poem-telling workshop or our concert featuring IM3, you have been a direct beneficiary of the work that our program coordinator is doing," Pesses said.



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