New Schenectady Library Will Make Patrons Wait

If they want a new library, they won't be able to use the old one for awhile.

The $8M project calls for temporary closure of Schenectady Main Library; over 1,400 daily library patrons will be forced to seek other options while the library is closed for a year or more. The building, opened about 40 years ago, is at Clinton and Liberty streets, sandwiched between City Hall and police headquarters.

The first phase calls for replacing the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical systems, as well as asbestos removal, expanding the children's section and a new cafe, meeting rooms and circulation area. Albany Times Union reports.


Asbestos removal aside, the closure sounds about right given the tasks they need to do.

Replacing an HVAC is not easy, clean, quiet, or at all conducive to a public library, or any public space for that matter. As far as replacing electrical, well, if they're redoing the entire library, it'd be dangerous to have patrons wandering around while that's happening.

So while it sucks that they're closing the place for a year or so, it really sounds like that's what they need to do to make it safe. Sure you could probably do it while the place was open and close off certain areas, but then the work would take at least twice to three times as long.

Some books contain the machinery required to create and sustain universes. Tycho (Jerry Holkins) @ Penny Arcade

I hope they rev up their bookmobile program to offset the loss of foot traffic; Patrons need to be reminded the library is still able to find ways to serve them, even with the closing of this building. My main concern for the library servicing this community is they need to find a way to keep the public's attention and remind them of what library services are still operational while the renovations in the building are underway. I think if the library really makes a positive effort to optimize service to the community during this major inconvenience, and makes sure the public knows of their efforts, it will pay off. Maybe they can rent temporary space in a storefront and set up a "Library Express" station as a temporary fix...a small core collection and lots of computer terminals and a place to place holds and pick up books on hold, etc. These are all "costs of doing business" that any well-planned renovation should include in the final balance sheet, IMHO.

This story interested me enough that I looked up some basic facts:

  • The library building in question is the central library.
  • There are nine branches in the local system, six of which are within city limits.
  • Schenectady is a city of about 61,000 people.

    The question of whether or not to close the building seems to be moot. In my opinion, the biggest logistical concerns to serve the public are:

  • Keeping the central library's collection available to the branches, which of course can be achieved without keeping it open.
  • Maintaining good customer service at all branches.
  • Having enough computer access for the community.

    No doubt, there is a lot more to this story than we know. It's during times like these that the public realizes how much politics there are in libraries.

  • When we renovated the contractor told us how much extra it would cost to stay open during the bloodshed.

    It was cheaper to rent a building and move in for the year.

    There was no planning for this surprise closing and no way the Library could make up for the loss of its Central location (which, for example, holds 55 of all adult volumes; and accounted for 71% of all reference services, and 92% of attendees at adult programs in 2007). I've gone into detail at my weblog, f/k/a, on the rest of this story and the questions it raises.

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