State grants go to libraries fund laptop bar, heating, parking, and more

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Patrons read, work, and relax at the Guilderland Public Library on Monday. 

ALBANY COUNTY — Area libraries will be getting upgrades after receiving funding from a state program.

Money from the State Education Department Public Library Construction Project was awarded to libraries in Guilderland, Voorheesville, Westerlo, and Rensselaerville, among other libraries across the state. The libraries in Altamont and Berne did not apply for funding from the program for this year.

Funding increased from $14 million to $34 million after being cut in previous years, noted Rensselaerville Library Director Kimberly Zimmer. She said that she was grateful to state legislators for advocating for the increase in state aid, a sentiment echoed by Voorheesville Public Library Director Sarah Clark.

“If you look at libraries across the state,” Clark said, “that library funding is for everyone.”

The $34 million for construction projects was divided among the various regional library systems in the state; the Upper Hudson Library System, which includes libraries in Albany and Rensselaer Counties, said Guilderland Public Library Director Timothy Wiles.

Tim Burke, the executive director of the Upper Hudson Library System, said that the funds libraries are receiving now were awarded from the state in 2018. The Upper Hudson Library System received about $1.1 million for that year, said Burke.

Libraries are typically awarded either 50-percent or 25-percent matching grants. For Guilderland, the amount was lower due to funds being first awarded to other libraries, Wiles said.

Originally, libraries were only able to receive 50-percent matching grants, said Burke, but eventually qualifying libraries were able to receive up 75-percent of a matching grant, with the libraries contributing a quarter of the project’s funding.

The system’s funding is distributed to the 29 different libraries based on their service-area’s income, indicated by unemployment rate, those living at or below poverty level, and the number of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch in the community a library serves.



The Westerlo Public Library is receiving $27,480 for a $36,640 project to expand its parking lot. The library will pay the remaining 25 percent of the project, a little over $9,000, said Sue Hoadley, the exiting director of the Westerlo Library.

Hoadley said that her library applied for the grant last year.

“As the wheels of justice move slowly … ,” she remarked. “It usually takes about a year … .”

In the meantime, she said, the library has been preparing for the anticipated construction. The final step before beginning the work is receiving a permit from the state’s Department of Transportation, which has authority over Route 143, which runs alongside the library’s parking lots.

The project will add two additional spaces on the eastern side of the parking lot in front of the library and lines will be painted, creating a total of seven spaces in front. In the rear of the library, a wheelchair-van-accessible space will be created, where the handicapped parking is now.

“We definitely would like this to happen within the next month or two,” said Hoadley, though she said the timeline will depend on getting the DOT permit and when contractors are available.

She added that she hoped it would make the library more accessible for existing patrons as well as possibly bring in new ones who may have had difficulty accessing the library before.



The Rensselaerville Library is receiving a total of $9,693 to help fund $12,925 in projects of which the library will cover the difference, said Zimmer.

The library also applied for the funding a year ago, said Zimmer, and has prepared to fund the difference in its 2019 budget.

The grant will help build a “laptop bar” in the upstairs section of the library, said Zimmer, which will allow patrons to work on their computers while overlooking the street below. A panel equipped with USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports and electrical outlets will be built along the window upstairs, she explained.

“We’re finding any flat space in the library is currently being used to do work by our patrons,” said Zimmer.

Patrons can use their own laptops, said Zimmer, or the library can lend one. People of all ages often come to the library to do work there, she said, as many do not have internet at home. But others frequent the library for diverse reasons such as parents homeschooling their children.

“For us, we’re definitely seeing increased usage,” she said, of the library.

The library has also had some poor lighting in some areas that have made it difficult to read, said Zimmer, though she said there was no safety issue as far as visibility. The library plans to install hidden track lighting in the ceiling molding and replace the ceiling fan with a new model with lights.

The library will also upgrade its electrical panel, said Zimmer, so that it can support new air-conditioning and heating in the building.

Once the library finds the appropriate vendors, the projects can begin. While Zimmer expects the laptop bar to be built more quickly, she hopes that all projects are completed by next summer.



The Voorheesville Public Library has received $159,917, said Clark. Originally, the library received less but, because other libraries did not use as much as initially expected, the amount was increased. The library is matching the funding for a project that includes a safer parking lot, upgraded bathrooms, and an energy-saving feature, said Clark.

So far, the library has repaved its parking lot, said Clark, and intends to add new lighting to make the lot safer, as well as adding a new sign. The library will also build single-stall, unisex, family bathrooms that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, she said.

Clark said that she hopes the bathrooms will be a benefit to all patrons and staff, as they will not only serve those with disabilities but also make it easier for families visiting the library, such as allowing parents to go to the bathroom with children who still need to be attended to.

“Things you don’t always know if you never have had children at the library,” she said.

The library’s board of trustees is also currently reviewing the best way for the library to save energy, which is to be funded by the project. It could include solar panels or even energy-efficient windows, said Clark.



At the Guilderland Public Library, $105,346 has been awarded to help fund a new heating and cooling system, said Wiles. The library will fund slightly less than half of a $217,119 project, he said. Another $12,007 will be covered by rebates awarded from National Grid. With additional engineering costs, the project in total will cost about $269,000 said Wiles.

The library’s new heating and cooling system can be controlled from a computer as part of a building-management system, said Wiles. He was inspired when speaking to Guilderland Central School District Superintendent of Building and Grounds Clifford Nooney, when he saw Nooney controlling a room’s temperature from a computer screen in his office.

The library circulates either warm or cold water through its walls to change a room’s temperature, a 27-year-old system which uses 26 different pumps to channel the water. Because the pumps often have been replaced individually, funding was also used to replace all these pumps at once, said Wiles, adding that the new pumps are about 20-percent more energy efficient.

The project was completed a few months ago, Wiles said.

The library is already preparing an application for next year’s project, the first of three sections of an $8 million project to upgrade the library and expand its size by about a quarter, approved by voters in May; the first phase will upgrade the library’s bathrooms and make other building repairs, said Wiles.


More Regional News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.