Richards Library vice President Paul Gilchrist and Librarian Sarah Farrar pose with the elevator recently installed in the library's addition, which is yet to be completed.
For 111 years, entering Richards Library in Warrensburg has been a chore for those with mobility limitations, with a total of six steps on a narrow sidewalk leading to streetside parking.
Not for much longer, apparently.
In recent weeks, an elevator has been installed in the library’s new addition, which at this point is unfinished.
As soon as this summer, if the pending public funding vote is successful, people with mobility limitations will be able to get out of their vehicles in the new handicapped parking lot, go a short distance into the library’s new dual-door entry, and take the new elevator to any level of the library.
One primary destination in the new library is expected to be the new community room, situated in the lower level of the new 4,000-square feet addition. This room, featuring state-of-the-art audio-video installations, is expected to be a gathering place for various area organizations, library president Susan jennings said this week.
“The library will now be more of a community destination, a welcoming place for all, senior citizens, and experience more universal use,” she said. “Finally, everybody will now have access.”
Of all the buildings in town, the elementary and high schools are the only facilities that offer barrier-free access to those with mobility limitations — except for the Warrensburgh Masonic Temple, which has a chairlift, Jennings said.
The elevator was partially funded by a state Education Department matching grant. It was installed by Northern Lifts of Bolton Landing.
Richards Library, housed in a compact but grand stone building, 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 endowment, which once yielded enough interest to cover a portion of the operating expenses, dwindled in recent years, particularly in the recent recession.
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 details.
Library trustees envision the facility to provide an upscale, welcoming ambiance, with a reading lounge, a 10-station public computer center, and more accessible book stacks and storage as well as the community room.
Facing a budget crisis, the library trustees have proposed for the library to obtain public support. 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 15, when the annual Warrensburg school budget goes up for a vote. The proposition will be listed on the same ballot as the school budget, although it is a separate matter.
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 an independent 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 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 nearby communities now receive, according to library Vice President Paul Gilchrist.