Library spreads its wings, adds wing
AMENIA — It was a long time coming, but those who like to visit the Amenia Free Library are finally living the dream of having ample and comfortable space to read its lively collection, use its computers, check out all its DVDs, books on tape, children’s section and so much more — not to mention chat with its knowledgable and friendly staff — after decades of planning and fundraising and a COVID-delayed construction process. That’s right, as of Nov. 18 patrons could finally check out the Amenia Free Library’s long-awaited expansion after it officially opened to the public.
The once-tiny library, located at 3309 Route 343, began saving for the expansion back in 1994 and planning for it around 2000.
Before more than doubling in size, it was extremely tiny — the existing structure totaled just 880 square feet. The expansion itself involved constructing a 68-foot long by 28-foot wide addition to the west side of the building, adding a total of 1,900 square feet to the structure.
The expansion cost included “$900,000 for the construction itself and more than $100,000 for engineering and architectural costs,” according to Library Board of Directors President Alan Gamble, who spoke to this newspaper just as the project was about to be completed.
The library received approval from the Amenia Planning Board for the project in the fall of 2018, and celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony in August 2020. During the past year, passing motorists and curious passersby watched as the new, modern structure took shape on the west side of the main building.
Taking requests for increased hours, services and materials into account, the Library Board presented Proposition No. 7 to voters on this year’s ballot, requesting additional funding from the town to support the library’s operations.
Prop. 7 asked the town to increase its contribution by $50,000, totaling $175,000 annually. It was its first request for an increase in three years. On Election Day, Nov. 2, 538 voters out of 1,043 voters approved the proposition, which passed, giving the library the money it needs to function.
“We are thrilled and very thankful for our community of voters that our proposition did pass,” said Library Director Victoria Herow. “It will allow us to keep growing in our next chapter of the library and allow us to be there for the community with our programming and the services that we offer.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Library Board Trustee Amanda Forbes. “I think it speaks to the fact we really need this space, the community needs this space and it’ll be put to very good use. The community is going to love this space: it’s super bright and roomy and I especially love the children’s area where kids will be able to do activities and browse books without being crowded anymore.”
The library invited patrons and voters to preview the final renovation in October. A nice crowd turned out to mingle among books and bites, to talk and taste while they enjoyed the new views of the reworked library space.
In early November, the library closed its doors to the public in order to move materials into the new structure. Though the hope was originally to reopen by mid-November, Herow said there was more to take care of before the library could reopen and plans were postponed. The library officially reopened on Thursday, Nov. 18.
“We’re really happy to be over here finally in our new space,” Herow said. “We have a larger work space for the staff, we have a much larger children’s area and we have better shelving for everything.”
Asked how patrons have reacted to the renovated library, Herow said they usually take a minute to walk in the door to absorb their new surroundings, adding that overall they appear to be really happy about the redesigned layout and added room.
The library is currently open Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays and Fridays from noon to 5 p.m.; Wednesdays from 2 to 7 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and closed Sundays.
Herow said the original, smaller library space is now being redone. Once that space is finished in the next couple of months, she said there will be a larger space for future library programs. Until then, Herow said the Amenia Free Library will be operating all of its programs out of the new space.
The library reminds its patrons in light of the omicron variant face masks are required by all who enter, even for those who are fully vaccinated.