f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

May 11, 2008

outcry earns a reprieve for Schenectady’s Library

Filed under: q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 7:48 am

After revealing last week that our Central Library would close in a few weeks for up to 18 months as part of its expansion project (see our prior post, where we are collecting links to relevant articles, Letters), Schenectady County officials apparently saw the signs of public outrage on the wall and trembled. They announced yesterday that they will be seeking bids on two alternative renovation plans that they believe “can limit closings to a matter of weeks, which could be staggered or broken up to minimize patron disruption.” See “Library construction plans change: Facility will not close July 1; county seeking new bids” (Schenectady Daily Gazette, by Tatiana Zarnowski, May 10, 2008); and “Plan reduces library closure: Schenectady County officials adjust plan to limit service disruption” (Albany Times Union, May 11, 2008)

update (May 23, 2008): See the Daily Gazette article, “Library addition project shelved: Work to involve only heating, electrical systems” (May 23, 2008) — “The systems replacement work will likely result in some short-term closures at the main branch this summer, said board President Esther Swanker.”

The TU reported this morning that: “Susan E. Savage, Schenectady County Legislature chairwoman, said in a prepared statement contractors are being asked to respond to both the original bid specifications and two alternate bids meant to lower costs and shorten the period when the main branch will be closed.” The article explained that:

“One alternate plan focuses on replacing major systems in the building including removing asbestos, installing a new heating and air-conditioning system and improvements to the first floor.

“The second alternative focuses on using the upstairs of the facility to house library programs, eliminating the need to change the basic footprint of the building. The second-floor space is now used for administrative space and book storage.”

Of course, such minimal disruptions would have been incorporated into any reasonable construction plan from the start — to respect the needs and desires of the public and in line with the usual practices of contractors. So, I’m not about to fall all over myself praising the County for their quick, survival-0riented responsiveness to the will of the people. (Nor fall for Legislator Gary Hughes’ attempt to let us know the was “concerned” — but impotent? — from the start.) Bernard Allanson, who has to work with Library and County officials as the president of Friends of Schenectady County Public Library, was a bit more diplomatic than I feel like being today. The Gazette reported that:

“Allanson said then he thought the Legislature pushed the original project through without public discussion. On Saturday, he was encouraged to hear officials were backing off.

prayingHandsS “ ‘I would say that the public has had a significant impact on the Legislature. I applaud the Legislature for listening,’ he said.”

I wish Chair Savage had put her prepared statement on the County website, so we could read it directly. The Gazette tells us that “construction won’t happen until the end of summer at the earliest, since officials have postponed the deadline to seek the additional bids. They had planned to review bids May 22.” Naturally, I am quite pleased that the Central Library will probably be able to stay open with only the normal occasional closings and reduced hours that are expected during a major construction.

Clearly, we need to continue to be wary, as the new bids are solicited and reviewed — to remember just how cavalierly (savagely?) officials were willing to damage our community in order to save a few dollars, while being totally oblivious about the need for and impact of such a lengthy closing. Our County leaders need to understand that the public is willing to pay a premium, if necessary, to assure minimal disruptions in the vital services and role that our Central Library plays in the life of this community.

Despite our relief, I hope many concerned citizens will attend the County Legislature’s May Meeting Tuesday at 7 PM, to let them know that their first approach was totally unacceptable — both the lack of public input and the lack of respect for the Library and its users — and that our leaders are, at best, on probation and will be monitored closely by the Library’s friends.

Many thanks to all the members of the public, including the Friends of Schenectady Public Library, who quickly and effectively put pressure on County officials to reverse their disastrous plan.

p.s. It is not all sturm-und-drang in Schenectady County this weekend. I want to express my love and gratitude to Mama G. on Mother’s Day.

spring sun
warm on my back
mother’s day

Sunday morning –
humming a tune
my mother taught me

…………… [Schenectady’s] Yu Chang from Upstate Dim Sum

And, to show you this lovely view from my backyard last night (May 10, 2008), looking across the Mohawk River from the Schenectady Stockade across to Scotia (click for a larger version).

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