The expansion and modernization at the Western Sullivan Public Library Delaware Free Branch in Callicoon is nearing a spring/summer completion date.
Branch library turns new page
By Dan Hust
CALLICOON March 1, 2013 Justin McElroy’s crew were ripping through the back wall of the former Callicoon National Bank when they discovered something odd:
Cancelled checks dating back to 1917.
Turns out that may be how bank officials dealt with the documents, sealing them away in a wall that would protect any sensitive info for decades to come.
Until 2013, at least.
Exactly 100 years after its opening as a bank, the Lower Main Street building which houses the Delaware Free branch of the Western Sullivan Public Library (WSPL) is gaining an elevator and much-needed extra space.
And it’s not losing all of the original rear wall, composed of handsome brick.
Even before it was merged into the WSPL in 2000, the Delaware Free Library had reached capacity.
Yet two vaults in the center of the basement and first floor, plus a second floor occupied by the local Masonic order, limited any space-saving reconfiguration.
So after years of looking into other locations in Callicoon, the library’s board agreed to have architect Buck Moorhead design a 540-square-foot addition on the back side of the library.
Much of the work also is meant to turn the 1913 building into a handicapped-accessible structure ergo a new bathroom, plus the elevator, which runs to all three floors.
The Masons ultimately agreed to relocate, as well, opening up the entire top floor for a community and technology center.
Work is rapidly proceeding toward a spring/summer completion date, and Library Director Kristin White can’t wait.
“This library is the second busiest [of the three branches],” she says, citing a figure of more than 26,000 items circulated just in 2012. “And there are times when it’s the busiest yet this is the smallest building.”
Thanks to the $364,000 project, Delaware Free will be able to offer more space for not just books and computers but special exhibits and activities for all ages.
More than half of what’s being spent came from grants and donations: nearly $99,000 alone from the state Dept. of Education's Library Construction Fund, $40,000 from the Sullivan County-administered NY Main Street Program (through the Office of Community Renewal of the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal) ... and an astonishing $81,000 in private donations.
The remainder (just over $144,000) came from WSPL’s reserves.
“We spend taxpayer money responsibly,” says White.
And that money is largely staying local.
Moorhead, the architect, lives in Callicoon, and McElroy, owner of Just-in-Time Contractors of Callicoon, grew up coming to this very library.
“It’s built like an old brownstone in New York City,” McElroy appreciatingly observes, adding that he’s got nearly two dozen local employees working on the project.
His crew also temporarily repaired the damage from Hurricane Sandy, which ripped off the library’s roof, rolling it up into a corner.
“The whole second floor was waterlogged,” recalls White, who said bids are now going out for not just the roof but repairs to the damaged tin ceiling of the second floor.
That ceiling actually served as inspiration, as Moorhead designed new tin ceilings into the addition. He also incorporated the original rear exterior wall of the library into the interior of the addition.
As good as it all looks, however, White is most excited about the extra space.
“This will allow more room for books and materials,” she explains. “We still have a lot of people using this space. Even in this day and age, people can’t afford books and computers.”
Staff offices will be less cramped, too, moving from the basement (which will be dedicated to children’s and teen’s programming) to the second floor.
“I think you’ll see a revitalization to the building,” predicts White. “The library needs to be part of the community, and you really have that here.”