It’s been close to three years since voters in Highland approved a bond of up to $4.8 million to build a new library on an empty lot in the hamlet. Groundbreaking for the project in September of 2016 was an event “40 years in the making,” said library board president Joanne Loewenthal at the time, referring to the decades of difficulties trustees and staff encountered trying to find solutions to compensate for a myriad of infrastructure problems in the Church Street library. Mold, foundation cracks and roof leaks were just a few of the problems plaguing the old structure. The building was not handicapped-accessible, parking was limited and the space just too small to serve the community.
Now, the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. The brand-new, energy-efficient library building at 14 Elting Place is scheduled to open next month, on Tuesday, January 16 at 1 p.m.
A grand opening and ribbon-cutting is planned for Sunday, January 28 from 3-5 p.m. Local officials have been invited and The Would restaurant is catering the reception. All community members are welcome to attend.
Until then, finishing touches are being applied to the new library; flooring installed, painting finished and furniture delivered. The old library closed permanently on December 11. Staff have been busy clearing out the old building and packing up the books, and now need to learn their way around the new space and train in new technology.
To make the closing less of an inconvenience, there are longer hours at the Clintondale branch of the Highland Library at 302 Crescent Avenue in Clintondale. The hours there through January 12 will be Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Cardholders are asked to choose a library other than Highland as pick up location when ordering materials online until the library reopens in the new location.
Highland Library director Julie Kelsall-Dempsey says they’ve received a number of offers from community volunteers to help with the move. They’re grateful for that, she adds, but staff and a professional moving company will do the job. “We do need your help in other ways, however,” she says. “You can help us spread the word! Tell your neighbors, friends and family that we’re closed, and to check our website and Facebook for updates.”
Library patrons are also asked to be patient during this time of delay and transition. “We’re working on a move that is efficient, timely and smooth, but we know there will be unforeseen issues and problems that occur. Please bear with us and know that we are working to get your library up and running as soon as possible.”
The new library is coming along very nicely, she says. “We’re all very excited about getting into the new building. The grand opening will offer a chance for people to come and mingle, see the building, and talk to staff members who will be there showing people around.”
The 10,250-square-foot building is designed so that as the community grows, so can the library, expanding back onto the 2.16-acre site without impacting the additional parking located at the back of the property. The parcel of land across from St. Augustine Church was purchased from the Archdiocese of New York for $125,000, already off the tax rolls, keeping taxpayer impact stable. The location is two-tenths of a mile from the library’s former location at 30 Church Street, where the 102-year-old Highland Public Library was housed since February of 1930. The structure was deemed beyond economic feasibility to renovate.
Now that they’re moving into an energy-efficient building, the Highland Public Library has signed on to be part of a new sustainability initiative sponsored by the New York Library Association (NYLA), in which libraries are certified as sustainable by the state if they can prove they are environmentally responsible, financially sound and socially just.
“It started with Sustainable Westchester [a business consortium sustainability program], and now libraries are a part of it,” says director Kelsall-Dempsey. “And it seemed to be the right time for us to join. Our new library is well insulated, so we expect to spend a lot less on energy costs, and we’re cutting back on paper goods. In order to be financially sustainable, we have to make sure we have proper funding, which our supporters make sure we have. And then it’s about making sure the library is meeting the needs of the community; all communities are different and we want to make sure our community always finds us relevant. We plan to talk to people and find out not just what type of things they want from their library in the new building, but what they envision for the town, and we can try to provide for those needs as best we can. That’s a project I’ll be focusing on more after the move.”
Updates on the library opening will be posted on the Highland Public Library Facebook page and at http://highlandlibrary.org/.