Broadalbin Library seeks new home

Volunteers at the Broadalbin Library, who are looking to make it a public library, are clashing with the town government over their plans.

The all-volunteer Broadalbin Library will lose its current free-of-rent building this December. The American Legion Post 337 of Broadalbin owns the building at 25 N. Main St. and has been renting the space to the volunteer library for free since 1999. Now the Legion wants the building back, and hopes to turn it into a counseling center for veterans.

“We plan to use [the building] for counseling for veterans because that’s who we are,” said Mario Cristaldi, the commander of the American Legion Post 337.

According to Cristaldi, the Legion did offer the library a new building space for when their lease ends this winter, but the library turned down the option.

“We gave them an option that if they wanted to relocate we would fix the building for them,” Cristaldi said. “We had plans on putting in a new bathroom and a new ramp for them.”

The building was unsuitable for a library, with too many small rooms, and the legion was unwilling to take down any walls, said Marianne Milton, president of the library.

“This building would simply not meet the needs of a modern, updated library, which… must have adequate space, lighting, shelving, seating, and restrooms,” Milton wrote in a letter to the town supervisor.

Because Milton and the rest of the library board were dissatisfied with the legion’s new building option, they reached out to the town of Broadalbin, with a request for a new library building that the town could purchase from Fulton County.

“We received an inquiry from [Milton],” said Jon Stead, Fulton County administrator. “An inquiry about a tax-foreclosed property.”

However, neither the town nor the county reacted positively to Milton’s inquiry. “While we understand their need, we are not recommending this happen,” wrote Michelle Ippoliti, deputy county treasurer, in a letter to the town supervisor in May. “Generally, the county and the taxpayers take a substantial loss when parcels are sold at auction… As the library is listed as not-for-profit, that would remove the parcel from the tax base and future tax rolls.”

Ippoliti declined to comment on the subject to The Leader-Herald.

Sheila Perry, Broadalbin’s town supervisor, concurred with Ippoliti, said that Milton was asking too much for the town to purchase the building and assist them in establishing a public library. “Your request for ‘support’ from the town clearly does not mean simple help; it means establishing and totally paying for a library,” Perry wrote in a letter to Milton in May. “Stating that it is ‘incumbent’ on the town to do so because we are already excessively burdened by the commitment of a previous administration to a town park is totally an excessive demand.”

Perry’s letter made it evident to Milton that the town would not be much help in the volunteer library’s struggle to become a public library, she said.

“It was pretty clear at that point to us that they [did not want] to be bothered with a library,” she said.

Perry was unable to be reached for comment by The Leader-Herald.

According to Milton, the library has been operating at a deficit for years, relying on savings and $3,000 a year from the town to carry out all necessary library functions. For this reason, she requested help from the town in purchasing the new building, which was listed at $38,000.

The new building would have provided the library with more space for their books, a more expansive computer system, and a community system, Milton said.

“[We want] space and a proper environment where people can come in and comfortably read,” Milton said.

From there, the library hoped to use the new space to increase visitors to the library, and diversify the library’s program, with the ultimate goal of meeting the requirements to become a public library, she said.

“You can’t expect people to come if we don’t have what they want. People want a lot more out of a library than we are giving them,” she said.

Milton estimated that about 1,000 residents, or 20% of the population of Broadalbin, visit the current library each year. The library has 12 active volunteers, who keep the library to be open for a total of 10 hours each week.

For the town’s population of 5,000, a trained librarian working part-time, and hours of operation between 25 and 35 per week would be necessary to qualify to become a public library, according to state Department of Education documents.

However, it has been rare in recent years for small communities to successfully establish their own new public libraries, Milton said. The last new library established in the state was the Lansing Community Library as a public school district library in 2008.

As the prospects of working with the town of Broadalbin to establish a public library look meager, Milton said she is shifting her focus to inquiring about the possibility of going through the school district to instead become a school district library.

With the December deadline to evacuate their current building, though, Milton and the other volunteers must move quickly to find a home.

“Once we solve the housing problem, we’ll pick up the struggle to become a public library,” she said. “Right now, we have to find a place to go.”

By Paul Wager