Potsdam library planning renovation CREATING A ‘THIRD SPACE’: Redesign intended to make facility more user-friendly

If approved, the expansion to the Potsdam Public Library would include removing the drop ceiling, reclaiming the balcony on the back wall and extending it along the left side of the room.

POTSDAM — When you walk on the red carpet through the metal stacks of books at the Potsdam Public Library, you are walking on history.

The carpet was installed in 1976 when the library was moved from what is now the Potsdam Public Museum and into what was once an auditorium.

Now, 41 years later, Library Director Ann T. Chase and her board are ready to give the space an upgrade.

It’s not just the aesthetics of the auditorium-turned-library that need a change.

“The way people use the library has changed since this library was placed her,” Ms. Chase said.

Modern libraries, she said, are more like community centers.

Ms. Chase referenced sociologist Ray Oldenberg’s concept of the “third place,” when she described the goal of the redesign.

According to Oldenberg, people generally live in three places. Home and work are first and second. Third place is where you spend time in society.

“We want to be the third place,” she said.

The plans for the library are extensive.

It includes opening up the old village courtroom that sits above the entrance and checkout desk in what used to be the auditorium’s balcony. The courtroom space would be converted to a classroom/maker space workshop and a café.

Currently, ESL classes and baby activities are conducted in a third floor classroom with no elevator access.

The hoped-for renovation would include extending the courtroom balcony across the library and up to the third-floor space.

This portion of the balcony would cover about one third of the library footprint. It would gain elevator access to the third floor classroom and allow space for an enclosed children’s area, a computer lab and another classroom.

The plans call for adding the basement hallway to the library and connecting the computer lab and bookstore to the bathrooms.

Maybe the most difficult renovation to negotiate would be an update to the HVAC system in the civic center. An update would most likely have to include the entire Civic Center complex.

Ms. Chase said money for the restoration would come mostly from State Aid for Library Construction, a $24 million fund that can provide up to 75 percent of capital funds for public library construction, broadband installation, acquisition, renovation, or rehabilitation of public libraries.

“Every year,” Ms. Chase wrote in a presentation she gave to Potsdam village trustees, “about two hundred libraries in New York State receive State Aid for Library Construction, and every year several of them received from $300,000 to $1 million through this grant.”

The project would most likely be split up into three or more phases, Ms. Chase said, to minimize the impact on library users.

A grant application is due to the North Country Library System by Aug. 11. The library system will approve and send the grant along to the state in October and word of funding will come several months after that.

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