The old perception of libraries as simply depositories of books to borrow is gone; today’s library offers its patrons an environment that expands upon not only what residents can expect to be offered within its walls but stretches those boundaries to encompass the greater community outside.
The Gardiner Library is a comfortable space filled with natural light that enters through expansive windows overlooking the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. When you think of an indoor space that “brings the outdoors in,” this is it. And it will soon become even more inviting when seating is expanded later this year. Library manager Nicole Lane said custom-made countertops will be installed against the windows where people can take in the view outside while they read or work sitting on comfortable tall, upholstered stools with backs. The project is funded by a grant the library received through the New York State Department of Education.
If looking at nature outside doesn’t bring it close enough, the library has outdoor seating and tables. With their free Wi-Fi, it makes it possible to work and be outdoors at the same time. Lane said they’d like to expand the library’s outdoor seating at some point, although no plans are in the works yet. “More seating, landscaping, maybe an ‘Imagination Garden’ for kids,” she said. “And sculpture.”
An outdoor project that will happen soon is Lane’s “Story Walk.” It’s a unique idea, in which the pages from a children’s book have been laminated and will be mounted on stakes to be inserted into the ground on the Rail Trail, spaced roughly 20-30 paces apart, so kids can read a story as they walk the Rail Trail. Lane received permission to do the project from the Rail Trail Association already, and the first story, Sheep Take a Hike, should be out there soon. “We could do this at Majestic Park, too,” she said, “or an adult version with poetry on the Rail Trail.”
Another way the library expands its boundaries is in their affiliation with the Mohonk Preserve. The library loans out day passes to the Preserve — a $12-$17 value — providing access to 70 miles of Mohonk Preserve hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, climbing trails and carriage roads. The passes can be checked out for a three-day loan period by card-carrying Gardiner Library patrons age 18 or older, and there are two passes available to borrow, so two friends or a couple can visit the Preserve together at no charge for either. Melissa Fairweather, public relations coordinator at the Gardiner Library, points out that the passes are also useful for residents who already have an annual pass to the Preserve but would like to take visiting friends or family hiking for the day.
For those going on vacation themselves, the Gardiner Library loans out Kindle Paperwhite e-readers pre-loaded with adult fiction and nonfiction along with the complete Harry Potter series and a few other young adult titles. Of course, one can also borrow the Kindles just to try them out — at $100 or more to purchase, it’s an expensive item to buy and then find out later that you don’t really like using one anyway.
Borrowers must be Gardiner Library patrons age 18 or older with accounts in good standing. An agreement is signed and a $100 deposit in check or cash is required. The unit and its charger are inspected before they’re loaned out, and when the Kindle is returned at its two-week due date, the e-reader is inspected for damage again; if all is well, the check is returned. The e-readers have to be brought back in person (no leaving them in the outside dropbox; there’s a $25 fine for that even if the e-reader doesn’t break) and there’s a $5 per day overdue fine. The library has three Kindles to loan out to adults and a fourth for kids that has the New Paltz School District sixth-grade reading list loaded on it. The Kindles can be reserved in advance and come with a “cheat sheet” on how to use it.
For those in the community who are unable to leave their homes due to illness or injury, the Gardiner Library has established a home delivery service. In addition to assisting people who are chronically disabled, the program is beneficial for someone who has a bad case of the flu or a broken leg, or even someone going through a difficult pregnancy who just can’t get to the library but would love to have an armload of diverting books and CDs delivered. The library is happy to either fulfill someone’s list or pick things out for them, said Lane, and they have plenty of library staff or patrons who are willing to lend a hand in this way when needed. “Of course, we do live in a small town and people still help each other by picking up books for their friends who are ill, but this is available if someone needs it.”
It’s all part of the library’s mission to connect with the community. “We try to reach out to give people what they need and what they want,” Lane said. And since paying for library services is part of the package for taxpayers, the Gardiner Library has a way to help do that, now, too: they recently started a program to sell ShopRite cards in $50 denominations. The library gets five percent of all sales, which may not sound like a great amount of money, but if every one of Gardiner’s 5,000-plus residents were to purchase $200 in cards this year to use to buy groceries they’re going to buy anyway, the library would make $50,000.
The Gardiner Public Library is located at 133 Farmer’s Turnpike. For more information, visit www.gardinerlibrary.org or call (845) 255-1255.