Group created to keep library open

With funding set to expire at the end of the year, a Friends of the Library group has been formed in an effort to keep the Badenhausen Library in Brasher Falls open as a reading room. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

BRASHER FALLS — With funding set to expire at the end of the year, a Friends of the Library group has been formed in an effort to keep the Badenhausen Library in Brasher Falls open as a reading room.

Michelle First, representing the group, explained the plan to the Brasher Town Board and asked for its support during last week’s meeting.

She said, instead of just Brasher residents, the group represents the broader tri-town community, which also includes the towns of Stockholm and Lawrence.

“We are meeting and devising a plan to save the library,” she said.

The Badenhausen Library has been a branch of the Massena Public Library since its inception in 2014, and Ms. First said they have met with Massena Public Library Director Elaine Dunne to talk about the Brasher branch standing on its own.

“Elaine Dunne has come out and let us know where we stand at this time. Being a part of Massena in any way is just not an option, and that’s okay, because it’s really time for us to stand on our own,” she said.

The group has also sought assistance from the North Country Library System, “and he’s been a great resource for us. We’ve had a lot of people come forward and say they really want to help out the library, and they’re people from Brasher, Stockholm and Lawrence,” she said.

Since forming, Ms. First said the group has assembled a board and “put our heads together and come up with what we think is a path forward.”

Because they will no longer be a branch of the Massena Public Library, but instead a reading room, Ms. First said they would not be eligible for New York state construction grants. That, she said, would be the only difference between a library and reading room.

“That is not a problem for us. We rent our space,” she said.

Although they’ll be a reading room, she said they will continue to offer the same services that are available right now as a library. They will be a member of the North Country Library System and will still have interlibrary loans and other services.

She said one area they’ve identified is being able to connect people with business services through the availability of copiers, fax machines, printers and the internet.

“People use that a lot. A lot of people just don’t have access to the internet, so that is available, and we decided that we really wanted to expand that business center part of this. So, we’re partnering with SBDC (Small Business Development Center),” she said.

Michelle Collins from the SBDC in Canton is a member of the group’s board.

“She has come forward and she will be kind of spearheading that effort. She has a lot of great ideas, but really wants to be able to expand on that business venture idea for marketing and communications, offering web development and design, all kinds of great things,” Ms. First said.

She said, because the nature of the library will be changing, so will the name since it’s used by individuals from Brasher, Stockholm and Lawrence.

“It’s the Badenhausen Tri-Town Meeting Room and Business Center, and it spreads the support to the community and that’s what we’re looking to do,” she said.

To make the reading room a reality, Ms. First said they were seeking financial support from the town board — $20,000, which would help them expand the business center and cover operating expenses at they work toward getting a library charter. A Friends of the Library group will also be fundraising.

“What I’m proposing here is a contract for services like you do with the chamber and do with the humane society and those types of things,” she said.

Library supporters had previously approached the Brasher Town Board to seek support for keeping the facility open. At that time, the board agreed to provide $20,000 a year for two years from the town’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, which could be used for broadband service.

She said they were also approaching other towns to seek financial support.

Ms. First said funding for two years would cover them as they go through the process to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

“We’re not starting from scratch. We have everything. The collection stays, the equipment stays, everything stays. It’s a turnkey operation, which is called a reading room. So, it’s just such a great resource to have and it would be a shame to not continue this,” she said.

Town Supervisor Mark A. Peets said the town attorney is reviewing the request before they make a decision.

The late Dr. D. Susan Badenhausen saw the need in Brasher and the surrounding area for an educational and cultural center in 2014. She donated the funds for the startup costs, as well as the operational expenses for seven years. Dr. Badenhausen’s friends, Patricia McKeown and Karen St. Hilaire, were instrumental in setting up the library, which was overseen by the Massena Public Library.

The annual budget of the library was $65,000, which included rent, utilities, staff, books and periodicals, plus connection to the New York State Library System through the Massena Public Library. The town of Massena was paid $5,000 annually for bookkeeping services.

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