After a year of renovations, the public library in Colonie, New York has a new entrance. Officials gathered to cut the ribbon at The William K. Sanford Town Library on Monday.
With Phase 1 of the two-part project done, the library boasts a brighter atmosphere with new carpeting and an updated fire safety system to oversee its stacks. Desktop computers and multi-color lighting ring the newly-refurbished “teen room,” and the information desk is closer to the new entrance for easier access. Colonie Town Supervisor Paula Mahan says she’s thrilled with the changes.
"Oh this is great, it’s been a long time coming. It’s much more user-friendly, new bathrooms, new teen room – just a whole new look here, and the entrance is much roomier," she notes. "This library is so well-loved and used, it’s been here for a long time, and it just needed some updating. But we wanted to keep the feel of the ‘hometown’ library as well.”
Mahan says the town budgeted about $300,000 for the cause, and the Friends of the Library raised $30,000 for a new IT training lab – but otherwise the project relies on state funding. Democratic Assemblyman Phil Steck secured two state Municipal Facility Grants for the library.
“This was such an important project to our town – 83,000 people here in Colonie, so the one facility that everybody in the town uses is the town library," explains Steck. "So what we did was we took grants from two different years, put them together, and put $1 million in this project.”
Democratic State Senator Neil Breslin also arranged a $100,000 grant for the operation. Library Director Evelyn Neale says construction on Phase 2 has already begun.
“We’re gonna move our children’s department to the back of the library, so they have a bigger, wider, open space as well as an exit to an outdoor play area," Neale says, motioning to the library's back wall. "We’re installing a new sound system in our Stedman Room, we're moving our reading area up to the front of the library, expanding our training lab, because we do a lot of IT training...”
Neale says it will also include a lactation suite, new furniture and shelving, and an additional meeting area similar to its large Stedman Room, which she says is almost always booked.
Neale has been overseeing the project since coming on as director in 2015. When focus groups collected input for the library’s new strategic plan, meeting space and computer access were residents’ top priorities. Like many libraries across the country, Neale says the purpose of the building is changing.
“Libraries are considered the ‘third place.’ It’s a community center or a meeting space, because there aren’t any more town squares," she explains. "So even though we have 20,000-30,000 card holders, we have a lot more users that come in on a regular basis to use our Wi-Fi, or to use our meeting room, or to do a closing on a house – you know, the use ranges.”
Neale expects Phase 2 to continue into January 2021. As it did for Phase 1, the library will remain open throughout construction. The building opened in 1976.