Donated desk will highlight rebuilt Phoenicia Library

The new circulation desk, custom built and donated by Ben Mack. (photo by Violet Snow)

The new circulation desk, custom built and donated by Ben Mack. (photo by Violet Snow)

The Phoenicia Library’s move from temporary quarters on Ava Maria Drive to its renovated home on Main Street is tentatively scheduled for December, announced library director Elizabeth Potter, who hopes to open in the updated space by January 1. With the reconstruction nearing completion, the moving date will depend on when the new shelving is ready to be delivered, and the library will be closed for two to three weeks during the transition period.

An electrical fire gutted the Main Street building in March 2010. The $800,000 rebuild was financed through a mix of insurance money, state grants, personal donations, and fundraising initiatives. Energy-efficient and handicapped-accessible, the structure has been enlarged to accommodate a ramp, elevator, and community meeting room.


“It’ll be nice when we’re no longer ‘the library that’s recovering from the fire’ and we’re ‘just a library,’” said Potter.

An unexpected boon came towards the end of the building process, when Potter was discussing shelving and cabinetry with Wyatt Roberts of Harmony Builders, who is doing the construction, and Ben Mack of Mack Custom Woodworking in Shokan. “We were going to buy an expensive prefab circulation desk from a library company,” she said. “They are big, complicated pieces of furniture, but in our small space, we needed something customized.” Mack offered to build a circulation desk, which he donated to the library, saving what Potter estimated at tens of thousands of dollars.

“My husband saw it and called it the Tesla of library desks,” said Potter, referring to the high-performance electric sports car.


‘Passive House’ heat exchange

The moving process will be carried out by the library staff and a professional moving company. Because of space limitations in the temporary facility, much of the collection is currently in storage. Although virtually all the books in the old library were destroyed or damaged by the fire, many volumes were promptly donated by the community, and Potter has continued to acquire new titles, swapping out the old ones to storage as the shelves filled up at the former community clinic.

Once the shelves are in place, the library will close while the staff devotes its time to setting up the new space. Books have to be arranged on the shelves, according to a plan worked out during the design process, which Potter described as “incredibly complex. It took weeks of work to figure out what parts of the collection would go where, how many items in fiction, nonfiction, children’s, and subsections, to make sure we have enough shelf space. As part of that process, we got a sense of where everything would go.”

Employees will be getting used to the new technologies of the building, including lighting, the elevator, and the “passive house” heat-exchange system, which will require no heating fuel. Staff will also be getting up to speed on the new computers, provided through a grant from New York State.

Patrons will have to plan ahead once the moving date is firmed up, as it will not be possible to check out books in Phoenicia for a couple of weeks. When placing a hold, patrons can specify pick-up at nearby libraries, such as Olive, Pine Hill, or Woodstock.

When the moving and opening dates are set, they will be posted on the Phoenicia Library website,, or the library’s Facebook page.

“We’re almost home,” said Potter. “It’s because of everybody in the community that we were able to do this. We’ve gotten help from so many people.”

There are 2 comments

  1. Joe

    It all sounds great. I have one question you mention ” passive house heat-exchange system, which will require no heating fuel.” Are you certain that “no fuel” is used in this system? Is it electric?

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