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Area libraries awarded thousands in state aid

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    D.R. Evarts in Athens is the only library in Greene County slated for a grant in this round of funding.
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    The Claverack Free Library was awarded $302,089 for expansion in its new space at the former A.B. Shaw firehouse.
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    Contributed photo The new main room at the soon-to-be-opened Claverack library.
August 8, 2019 05:23 pm Updated: August 9, 2019 11:02 am

Local libraries in the Twin Counties are in line for thousands of dollars in state grant money to complete construction, renovations and other enhancement projects.

In Columbia County, six libraries have been awarded grants — in Claverack, Germantown, Hudson, Kinderhook, North Chatham and Hillsdale.

One library in Greene County — D.R. Evarts Library in Athens — is slated to receive funding, along with six other libraries in neighboring counties in the 102nd Assembly District.

The Columbia County library receiving the largest award was the Claverack Free Library on Route 9H, which received $302,089 for the library’s expansion to its new space.

“The construction grant the library received from New York State Library’s Division of Library Development is part of the funding allocated to the Mid-Hudson Library System,” said Jennifer Post, president of the library’s board of trustees and chairwoman of the building and capital committee. “It is one of several grants (and the largest) that we’ve received from this source. Overall, we’ve raised more than $2.5 million from more than 700 donations from individuals, foundations, local businesses and government sources.”

The library has been short on space at its current site for years, Post said, and in 2010 acquired the former A.B. Shaw Firehouse. The grant money is being used for the latest round of renovations needed in the new facility.

“We have been working to repurpose the building in phases as the money has been raised,” Post said, adding that local taxes have not been used for the project, and neither the town nor the library have taken on new debt.

The new library building is expected to hold its grand opening Oct. 26.

State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, said libraries are an important resource.

“Libraries are vital educational, cultural and community resources and I’ll continue advocating for library funding and even stronger libraries,” Jordan said.

In Greene County, the D.R. Evarts Library in Athens received $282,947 to make the library more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including the addition of a wheelchair ramp and accessible restroom.

“I’m ecstatic at the attention our local libraries are receiving,” Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, said. “The magic of reading is something we should help everyone have access to, and our libraries are central to keeping the spread of knowledge alive and well.”

The Kinderhook Memorial Library will get $38,069, which will pay for renovations to the interior and exterior of the building.

“We have had several construction grants — we have tripled the size of our building over the past several years,” Library Director Annalee Dragon said. “We were busting at the seams — we serve between 50,000 and 60,000 people per year, we were in one room, and most of the building wasn’t handicapped accessible. We needed [more] space for programming and for collections.”

Other changes in recent years have included technology upgrades.

“We went from incredibly slow internet to high-speed, accessible internet, which is important because a lot of people in the county don’t have access to it at home,” Dragon said.

This year’s grant will be used for renovations to the historic building that houses the Kinderhook Memorial Library, a project that began a year and a half ago, though the capital campaign to raise funds began three years ago.

“This has been huge for the community. Libraries are drivers of economic development, and having the ability to offer a sense of community, which is not governmental or religious, is rare in these times,” Dragon said. “Our community was eager for access to collections and technology — yes, you can go to Starbucks and get internet service, but there is no one there to help you when you need it. We have the ability to get you online and help you when you need it.”

Other libraries in the Twin Counties receiving funds include Germantown, which was awarded $4,645 for the renovation of the library’s entrance and HVAC upgrades; Hudson Area Association Library, which received $10,705 for the construction of storage space; North Chatham Free Library received $5,304 for expansion of the parking lot; and the Roeliff Jansen Community Library, in Hillsdale, was awarded $72,628 for driveway and parking lot renovations.

“Our libraries are integral to our communities, providing a place for us to learn, explore new ideas and access resources,” Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, said. “With this funding, our libraries will be able to complete necessary renovations and expand their facilities. I look forward to seeing how these projects improve our libraries so they can better serve Hudson Valley families.”

Assemblyman Jake Ashby, R-107, said local libraries are an important resource in local communities.

“Our libraries provide tremendous services and these projects will ensure our libraries can continue to function as an essential part of our community,” Ashby said.

Funding was awarded by the New York State Department of Education, which gave out $34 million in capital funding for library projects as part of the state budget.