Major state grant gets Claverack Library expansion rolling

CLAVERACK–The Claverack Free Library launched its expansion Monday, June 13, at the site of its future home, the A.B. Shaw Firehouse on Route 9H.

Michael Nyerges, executive director of the Mid-Hudson Library System, presented a grant — in the form of an oversized check — of $75,000 from the State Library Division of Library Development.

The state grant was one of four MHLS presented in Columbia County, including $31,673 to the Hudson Area Association Library, $22,000 to the New Lebanon Library and $97,459 to the Roeliff Jansen Community Library.

In thanking Mr. Nyerges for MHLS’s “early vote of confidence” in the Claverack project, Jennifer Post, president of the Board of Trustees, also mentioned Susan Roberts and Nancy Hoag Rasweiler, who have returned to the board bringing necessary “institutional memory,” and the late Joan Steiner, a longtime trustee who had spearheaded the move to the firehouse.

Attending the festive launch were Sally Alderdice, library director for some 34 years, capital campaign consultant Doug Wingo, library supporters and trustees.

Paul K. Mays, Lisa Hayes and Meghan Brennan of Butler Rowland Mays Architects in Ballston Spa were also present. They shared schematic design drawings of the firehouse renovation and led a tour around the trucks.

“Use your imagination!” urged Ms. Post.

The plans are not yet finalized, pending additional community input meetings. But the library’s current square footage will be increased seven-fold, from 1,400 to 11,000. In general, the book collection will be upstairs and the community meeting room downstairs. The plan features entrances on both Route 23B and Route 9H, an elevator, indoor and outdoor seating, a dedicated children’s room and flexible computer work space.

That’s Phase I, which is most of the project and estimated to cost $2 million. In addition to the MHLS grant, the library has received an anonymous donation of $500,000.

Just east of the library, on Route 23, construction proceeds apace on the new home of firehouse. Like the library, the fire company needed more space, in this case for larger trucks. The public — which owned the firehouse site — approved the sale of the site to the library in a February 2010 referendum. The library bought the building in November 2010, and the purchase price offset the construction cost of the new firehouse.

Like the fire company, which has been an important part of the community for 70 years, the trustees wanted the library to stay in the hamlet, where it has been situated since the 1930s. Further, town efforts are being made to revitalize the hamlet, which is centered on the junction of Routes 9H/23/23B, and the library is an active partner in that effort, said Ms. Post.

During the 18 months of renovation, the current library will be in full use. After that, Ms. Post promised careful consideration that building’s new use.

Later Ms. Post recalled Ms. Steiner, who bequeathed the library some of the dioramas she created for her popular “Look-Alikes” series of children’s books. The dioramas and poster board blowups of them will be displayed in a gallery area. “Joan was committed to this project and very persuasive,” said Ms. Post. “She’ll be here in spirit.”

Library use

TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY has not made libraries obsolete; it draws people into libraries, according to materials from the Claverack Free Library:

*Americans visit public libraries three times more often than they go to movies

*There are more public libraries in the United States (16,000) than McDonald’s restaurants

*More children participate in summer reading programs at libraries than play Little League baseball.

In Claverack, from 2005 to 2010:

*The number of library cardholders increased from 800 to 1,209

*Annual patron visits rose from 12,300 to 14,300

*Program attendance grew from 825 to 1,254.

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