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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

THE NARROW AISLES in the Delaware Free branch of the Western Sullivan Public Library in Callicoon don’t permit much room to maneuver – even less if a wheelchair must be used.

Tight Spaces Plague
Callicoon Library

By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON — February 17, 2006 – So much for so many books, so little time.
For the folks at the Western Sullivan Public Library’s Callicoon branch, it’s so many books, so little room.
Officially the Delaware Free branch of the three-library system, the Callicoon facility has been housed in a former bank on the hamlet’s main drag since 1970.
But the small building that was a perfect fit for the library when it moved from the old Callicoon firehouse just isn’t big enough anymore.
“We’ve outgrown it,” said Director Susan Scott. “Our circulation statistics have gone up considerably since the 2000 merger of the three branches, and we simply don’t have enough room to house a collection to serve our customers.”
There’s about 1,300 square feet, but they need at least 2,000 to make a difference.
They’d like a “real” children’s room, Scott said, and a space where people could hold community meetings and the library could hold programs similar to those offered at the Jeffersonville and Narrowsburg branches.
They’d like to take the Delaware Free mystery collection, a substantial amount of books, and make it easily accessible to the public.
Right now, Scott said, it’s “just crammed in.”
And, of course, they’d like to add books, computers, even office space.
“Right now, the sale room is basically next to the boiler,” Scott explained.
The office space used by Branch Manager Audra Everett and her staff is miniscule and located down in the basement.
But from February 2005 to February 2006, the books circulating in and out of the Delaware Free branch have jumped by 400 per month.
Since the old library system, begun by the Women’s Literacy Club of Callicoon in the 1950s, joined forces with the Jeffersonville and Tusten-Cochecton libraries, patronage for the new system has grown to 10,470 just in the Sullivan West School District.
The Callicoon branch also serves a number of customers from just across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania who pay a fee to use the library because of its convenient location.
Scott is encouraged by the growth, but she said it’s put pressure on the system to make some changes soon.
The three-story building has a number of issues that have stymied the district’s plans to expand.
Built in 1913, the building was placed on the state’s historic register in 1993. Any renovations would have to pass muster with the state’s office of historic preservation.
There are also two massive vaults built into the heart of the building. It’s not usable space, and Scott said the cost of removal would be astronomical.
It might not even be possible to actually remove them, she said.
Then there’s the third floor. The Delaware Free Masons have long rented space on the top floor – and they take up the entire space.
Another major issue?
Currently, the building does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
The library has been grandfathered in, and they are not currently required to make changes.
But if they were to begin renovations, they would have to become compliant with all ADA regulations.
That would mean providing an elevator to carry customers from the ground floor to the basement. All of the current shelving would have to be moved as well, to allow a wheelchair to be pushed down the aisles.
“If we do any type of construction on the current building, we lose even more space,” Scott explained.
The space crunch has been talked about for several years by the library’s board, but the search for a new home began in earnest about six months ago, Scott said.
So far, they haven’t found a single viable option.
They’ve looked at commercial properties, residences, even vacant lots and come up with nothing.
Because, again, there are a number of complications.
The new library must be built somewhere in or around Callicoon.
“We do want to keep it in the community,” Scott said. “Our preference would have been to stay on Main Street.”
Of paramount concern is the space available at any of the spots they’ve looked.
The property must be big enough to house the library plus parking.
And, of course, there are financial concerns.
Scott said the district isn’t looking to lay out a significant amount of money to buy a property only to face costly renovations.
“If [the property found] were land, I think we’d be in a better position to afford that,” she said. “Buying a building is . . . a can of worms.
“If we could build new, we could create a place where people could hang out,” she continued, “not just come in and check out their books.”
Now Scott is turning to the community for help in finding a new home.
She wants to hear about new properties that might be hitting the market. She wants to hear ideas that might help solve the library’s problems.
Susan Scott can be reached at the Jeffersonville branch of the Western Sullivan Public Library at 482-4350.

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