Several dozen area residents recently got a glimpse into the future of a gracious little hometown library that’s existed for 110 years with virtually no public support.
During an Open House held Jan. 13 at Richards Library, about 50 people from as far away as Glens Falls and Queensbury took a tour of the local institution, personally experiencing the existing space limitations of the historic main building as well as the new 4000-square-foot addition that has yet to be put into use.
Richards Library, is housed in a compact but grand stone building — considered a fine example of Colonial Revival architecture — that has been a landmark in Warrensburg since 1901.
A large addition was built onto it about six years ago, doubling its floorspace while preserving its historic architecture.
But the expansion project was stalled soon after the building was erected — because the library ‘s revenues were spent primarily on operating expenses.
For decades, the original endowment yielded interest that paid for operations, but the bulk of the cash reserves in recent years have been spent to pay for heating fuel and other ever-increasing expenses.
Last week’s tour allowed library visitors to see how the library trustees envision the library to better accommodate the public, with a reading lounge, a community room, state-of-the-art audio-video installations, a 10-station public computer center, and more accessible book stacks and storage.
Already, $600,000 has been spent on the expansion project, and completing the work is estimated to cost another $600,000, to provide needed furniture, computers and information technology equipment, carpeting, lighting and other interior construction details.
Facing a budget crisis, the library trustees have proposed converting to public support, which they explained to people visiting the open house last weekend.
The trustees have proposed, as provided for in state law, to establish a $98,100 tax levy on the residents of the Warrensburg School District, which mirrors their service area. A vote on the levy is now set for May, when the annual Warrensburg school budget goes up for a vote.
Although the library tax levy would, if approved, be listed as a separate charge on the school tax bill, it is not a part of the school taxes. It is a separate levy allowed by state law, particularly for private libraries like Richards Library that serve the public.
Library officials have estimated that this levy would cost 19 cents per thousand of assessed valuation on property owners’ tax bills.
The Warrensburg Central School District, with about 6,000 residents, includes Warrensburg, Thurman, and small portions of bordering towns including Lake George, Bolton, Stony Creek and Chester.
The tax levy represents $4.48 per capita — just a fraction of the public support that libraries in neighboring communities now receive.
Library Board of Trustees President Susan Jennings said the people attending the open house were enthusiastic about the library’s future and the features it will offer the public if the public funding is approved.
“The open house was wonderful and uplifting,” she said, noting that the trustees are hoping the vote will be approved. “If people of Warrensburg and Thurman want to keep their library for more than a couple of years, they’ve got to get out and support it —the library’s finances are now down to bare bones.”