Dozens show up for Gloversville Public Library grand opening

Gloversville Public Library Director Barbara Madonna cuts the ceremonial ribbon held by Capital Campaign Co-Chair and Board of Trustees President Christine Pesses and Campaign Co-Chair and library trustee Elizabeth Batchelor at the library during Sunday’s grand reopening celebration. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — Large swaths of the community gathered in and around the Gloversville Public Library on Sunday for a ribbon cutting ceremony and grand reopening celebration following the conclusion of the massive renovation project that modernized the historic library.

“Thank you everyone for coming out today on such a monumental day. In September of 1904 the community gathered here on this spot to lay the cornerstone for this building. Everyone gathered again in December of 1905 to dedicate the building and welcome the community inside. That’s what we’re here to do today,” Library Director Barbara Madonna said on Sunday while welcoming a crowd of people from the steps of the library.

The Gloversville Public Library at 58 E. Fulton St. reopened on Nov. 5 following a temporary 18-month closure while the building, constructed in 1904 under Andrew Carnegie’s library program, underwent a massive $8 million renovation project. During that time, the library temporarily relocated to the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth building.

“It’s been a long journey, obviously very emotional, but great pains were taken to maintain the history and architectural splendor of this building,” Madonna said.

Madonna noted that the building’s key historic features like the spiral staircase in the entryway, woodwork and the Carnegie room have been maintained and highlighted while the building has been modernized with new infrastructure and technology.

“We also wanted to bring the building up into the 21st Century and to be able to support the services that the community needs and expects and wants out of this building today,” Madonna said.

The interior of the library has been completely overhauled with the creation of new spaces throughout the entire four-floor building that was brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act through the introduction of a four-stop elevator and an additional staircase, recognizing one of the project’s main goals to make the library accessible to all.

“This really is the community’s library, and it’s a community success story. So, I just want to thank all of you for participating,” Madonna said before cutting the ribbon and opening the doors for everyone to filter inside and explore the building.

The library was packed with people slowly making their way through each floor of the building where service was previously limited to the ground floor. The renovations expanded the useable library space from 6,000 square feet to 19,000 square feet.

The library’s main level now features a small study room, a computer room, a lobby gallery, a local history room for the library’s collection and genealogical documents and the relocated non-fiction, new fiction, research and media collections.

The upper level includes the adult fiction collection, three meeting rooms, a kitchen, a staff break room and the building’s restored Carnegie concert room.

The library’s lower level has undergone perhaps the most remarkable transformation, housing a children’s area with a special activity area, a teen space, two lobby galleries and a storage area for the friends of the library.

Visitors on Sunday commented positively about how much the basement of the library has changed, with bright walls, floors and seating for children and families to read, chat and participate in crafts and activities.

The building also includes bathrooms on each floor and new lounge seating, tables and chairs throughout the entire library for patrons to read, work or chat.

According to Capital Campaign Co-Chair and Board of Trustees President Christine Pesses, it was the building’s hidden infrastructure that led to the years long effort to renovate and restore the building.

“We couldn’t continue much longer in a 100-year-old building with a 100-year-old furnace, no air conditioning, wasted space that wasn’t available for public use and a leaking roof,” Pesses said while recounting the history of the project for those in attendance.

“It all began with three women,” Pesses said. “Three women who believed it was our duty to provide modern library services and our duty to save one of the most beautiful buildings in Gloversville. Three women who were very naive.”

Pesses noted that she, Madonna and Capital Campaign Co-Chair and library trustee Elizabeth Batchelor began working on the project in 2007 by gathering input from community members, before hiring an architect in 2009 to determine if the building was sound and growing from there.

“Strong wills, naivete and vision could not do it all, there were many, many who helped bring this dream to reality, some helped over a short time, some who stayed for a long time and many who just gave as much as they could. You all contributed, you all made this a reality and what a dream come true. Thank you,” Pesses said before turning the microphone over to Batchelor.

Batchelor highlighted the final weeks of flurried activities carried out by the library staff to ready the building for reopening that included hauling much of the 13,000 piece children’s book collection downstairs by hand when the elevator inspection was delayed.

“We are here today not because of a miracle, but because of our staff,” Batchelor said. “The efforts of the staff made me realize that the result of this renovation project is much more than a restored and modernized library, what we have built along the way is a sense of community. It is the community that came together to support this library.”

Batchelor went on to thank all those involved in the renovation project, including the more than 900 donors to the capital campaign, before welcoming Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo, who grew up in the city and served as the honorary library capital campaign co-chair.

“What a wonderful day and it’s surprisingly emotional. I’m just so proud to be here, to be with all of you for this just astonishing day and astonishing achievement,” Russo said. “I want to begin by offering heartfelt congratulations to Chris and Betsy and Barbara and everyone who worked so hard on this campaign to save this library, your accomplishment is breathtaking.”

Russo recalled when he was asked to join the capital campaign thinking privately that it was unlikely to come together, but recounted his months-long persistence in trying to solve a puzzle put to him in his youth by a clerk in a city shop.

The clerk eventually told Russo that the puzzle had no solution, yet he never felt his time was wasted working on it.

“Even after he had explained how he tricked me I wasn’t sure I believed him. What if solving the puzzle was simply impossible for him? Just imagine the glory of solving a problem that has sunk everyone else,” Russo said. “How easy it is in life to look at what’s difficult and immediately classify it as impossible.”

“Days like today, though, are the reward you occasionally get when you strike out against the odds and embark upon a long, difficult journey.”

By Patricia Older

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