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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 22, 2011

Re-opens October 3
Altamont library moves to Masonic Temple until train station renovations are completed

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — Flooding from Tropical Storm Irene has caused the Altamont Free Library to quicken its pace in completing renovations at the historic train station, its new home.

Last week, mold was discovered on the walls of the library, which is housed in the basement of Altamont’s KeyBank. “We pay below-market rent,” said Judith Wines, the library’s director. Rather than spending hard-to-get funds on replacing the basement walls, the library’s board of trustees decided to close the library on Sept. 19 and look for a new location until renovations at the train station are complete.

“I walked around the village to visualize any spot,” said Wines. She came up with two — the Masonic Temple on Maple Avenue and the Boyd Hilton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Mill Street. “Both groups said that, after the storm, they want to help the community as much as possible,” said Wines. “Both said yes within 24 hours…That made me happy.”

The library board ultimately accepted the Masons’ offer, and the library will re-open on Monday, Oct. 3, at the Masonic Temple. “We’ll set up shelving on the perimeter of the building,” said Wines, “and move our core collections as space permits.”

Volunteers who want to help move books to the Masonic Temple are invited to come to the KeyBank location this Saturday morning, Sept. 24, at 9 a.m., said Wines.

She went on, “We’ll offer full library services with story times, book discussions, fax machine and copier, and regular hours.”

In the interim, she said, patrons may return books to any public library in Albany or Rensselaer counties. “Items that have been requested will be available when the library opens,” said Wines.

Meanwhile, work on renovating the train station will be stepped up. Meeting with contractors have led the board to believe work can be completed in six months, by the end of March. While volunteers can do some work, most of it has to be done by contractors, Wines said.

An electrician is currently wiring the building. Remaining work includes: plumbing; installing a sprinkler system; insulating; installing drywall; replacing flooring, including radiant heat panels; replacing bead-board; and painting the outside of the building.

“The library has been really touched with checks and well wishes,” said Wines. “The community support has been amazing….The mayor has checked in every day.”

Wines recounted how one patron, on hearing of the flooding, said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Twists and turns

The library’s dilemma has been an unfolding story.

When the rains came on Sunday, Aug. 28, from Tropical Storm Irene, staffer Michelle Stevens checked the library and thought it had escaped unharmed. When she came to work Monday morning, Aug. 29, it was a different story. She saw, through the window, a trashcan floating across the library floor.

“We were caught off guard,” said Wines. “It had looked fine.”

Getting in touch with KeyBank management was a challenge since the bank was closed and phones and power in Altamont were out that Monday. In typical Altamont fashion, Wines said, small-town connections were used. Pat Spohr, a retired schoolteacher and library trustee, had taught the KeyBank manager. Matthew Shannon, in kindergarten, and went to his house.

“There was 10 inches of water in the deep end,” said Wines. “KeyBank pumped out the water and we opened two days later.” Fans and a dehumidifier were set up to dry out the library. “We thought we were OK.”

The results of the flood didn’t look devastating. “Initially, we thought our only loss was about 300 items, less than 10 percent of our collection,” said Wines. “It’s sad, but not that bad. Some libraries fared much worse.”

But then, a week later, checking the carpeting under shelves, trustees pulled the shelves away from the wall and mold was discovered. “It was black and moist…of finger-paint quality,” said Wines. “It was disgusting.”

Repairs would be costly since drywall within four feet of the mold — virtually all of it — would have to be removed and new Sheetrock installed, Wines said. The board of trustees held an emergency meeting and decided not to invest in repairs since the library was planning on moving soon and needed whatever funds it could raise for the train station renovation, said Wines.

“Raising money is so hard,” she said. “We couldn’t see spending it on something else.”

The library’s director concluded by highlighting the silver lining of a storm cloud: “A dire situation lets you know how much people value you,” said Wines.

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