Shakespeare & Company A Body of Water June-July 2024

New Claverack Library nears completion

Standing in what will be the main area of the new library this fall (l to r) are Claverack Free Library Board of Trustees President Stephen King, Library Director Thea Schoep, Board Secretary and Building and Capital Committee Chair Jennifer F. Post, Treasurer Susan Roberts, and Vice President Mario Verna. Behind them are the open windows of the original brick wall of the firehouse that look into what will be the Children’s Room. Photo by Kate Mostaccio

CLAVERACK–It may still be exposed framing, hanging coils of high-speed internet wiring, and bare concrete but that doesn’t hinder members of the Claverack Free Library Board of Trustees and the library’s director from enthusiastically sharing what each area of the new building will feature when the library opens in early November.

The project to move the library from its current 1,400-square-foot home at the intersection of Route 23B and Route 9H in the hamlet to the adjacent former A.B. Shaw firehouse has been years in the making.

In the late 1990s, talks began about exploring the need for more space. The right opportunity finally came along in 2010, when the A.B. Shaw building became available. The location was perfect–since focus groups had made it clear that the community wanted the library to remain in the hamlet.

“The library is an anchor,” said Jennifer F. Post, secretary and chairperson of the library’s building and capital committee.

The purchase also helped the fire company with construction of its new facility on Route 23.

The current library’s cramped quarters make it difficult to host events, Ms. Post said. “The library is more than just books.” When the library hosted a book event featuring Nancy Ginsburg, the event drew a crowd of more than 60 and overflowed into the back rooms of the current building.

The new facility, with its 11,000 square feet and two levels, will solve the space problem by acting as both a library and a community center. Entering from the rear of the building on the lower level, through a handicapped accessible entrance, patrons will be greeted by an open community meeting space. There are plans to make this space available to the public. The late Cyndy Hall donated a grand piano to the library, which will be housed in this space, and the board hopes to dedicate space for an art installation featuring the work of the late Joan Steiner. Everyone present agreed Ms. Steiner, a library trustee in 2004, was instrumental in forming the committee to explore ways to expand the library. Ms. Post also said that Bob and Marilyn Laurie were early supporters who will have gallery space in the library named after their foundation.

The lower level will have a kitchenette and storage spaces.

Heading upstairs, patrons will walk past part of an original firehouse exterior wall. There is also an elevator. To the left will be the Children’s Room, which is housed in the original firehouse. Library Director Thea Schoep said there will be an arts and crafts center in this space, and Library Board President Stephen King said the bathroom in this room will be designed with children and families in mind.

The main library room has high ceilings and large windows, bathing the space in natural light. Mr. King said they are aware of some patrons’ desires to retain a “cozy” feel like the current building and there are plans to have comfortable seating near the front windows, set up like reading “nooks.”

Other planned features include a coffee bar, ethernet cable internet hookups as well as wi-fi, a monitor for library announcements, security cameras throughout and a bank of computers for patrons’ use. The book shelving in the main area will be movable, making the space adaptable to the library’s future needs.

Off the main area will be the young adult room with a unique feature–a fully functioning garage door. The door, an idea attributed to project architect Linda McNutte, can be raised to open the room to the outdoors and offer teen patrons an atmosphere different from the usual library room.

A grant from the Alexander and Marjory Hover Foundation will enable teen patrons to work with the architect and have a say in their part of the library, Ms. Schoep said. She hopes to expand young adult use of the library with the dedicated room. She said youth can serve as tech tutors, recalling a recent encounter where a teen assisted another patron with a technology need.

Also off the main area is the board meeting room, which will be available to the public as well. Ms. Schoep is investigating installation of a specialized hearing loop under the floor that would interact with hearing aids and assist the hearing impaired during meetings.

The space just off the meeting room may be used to house historical materials requiring temperature controlled storage down the road. The board hopes Claverack can become a repository for local historical documents.

The library is designed to operate with minimal staff and sections can be zoned to close off spaces that are not being used. “It’s very well insulated,” said Board Vice President Mario Verna, adding that the building “will have high efficiency mechanics.”

Insulation, sheetrock and new stairs remain to be installed, managed by Hoosick Valley Contractors. That will happen in the coming weeks, along with exterior finish work and the parking lot, complete with electric car charging station. Local subcontractors have been used as often as possible throughout the process, according to Ms. Post.

“With two significant grants committed from New York State expected in 2019–paired with generous past support from neighbors, local businesses and private charitable foundations–we are now nearing our fundraising goal,” according to a press release from the library board.

No local tax dollars have been or will be applied to the new library, Ms. Post said. Nor has any debt been incurred. More than 400 donors have already supported the project, some multiple times. The generosity has brought in $2.6 million.

To complete the project, the library has a few fundraisers planned for the summer and needs to raise $175,000 to put toward final touches and to cover any unforeseen contingencies. Donations can be made at Amazon shoppers can also donate through AmazonSmile.

“We are still welcoming donations,” said Treasurer Susan Roberts. In addition to monetary donations, interested donors can participate in the brick campaign. For $100, a brick will be inscribed as you direct, with proceeds to go to the Children’s Room. Bricks will be placed along the sidewalk of the main entrance. Visit the library website for more information.

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