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Hamburg Public Library ground-breaking to set off two-phase upgrade

A WORK IN PROGRESS — Pictured is an artist’s rendering of the Hamburg Public Library as it will look, after the planned upgrades. Photo provided by Jack Edson.
HAMBURG — By this time next year, the Hamburg Public Library will be close to unveiling its 6,000 square foot addition and $2.1 million face-lift.

The current structure, which was built in 1966, was one of two libraries in Erie County that were donated by American industrialist Andrew Carnegie. While Library Director Jack Edson said that the library was considered cutting edge at the time, he added that the local offering is now due for an update.

Plans are in the works for a full-scale, two-phase remodeling of the library. One of the main impetuses for the upgrade was the 25-year-old outdoor ramp, which Edson said was “never really welcoming. It is very hard to use, during the winter.”

Edson said that, when the decision was made to “bite the bullet and enter the 21st century,” he attended a seminar about the New York State Public Library Construction Grant Program. New York state designates $11 million to libraries across the state; Erie County receives approximately $650,000 of that amount.

The Hamburg Library project was presented to the Hamburg Town Board and “they were digging it,” Edson said. An architect was hired to make sketches, while the library pursued the state grant. According to Edson, the town board agreed to pursue matching funds for that grant.

“[Hamburg Supervisor] Steve Walters encouraged us to go for it, instead of waiting until next year,” Edson said. “That was very gusty. But sometimes a restriction provides a creative solution.”

While the library director said that it is his goal to make the library a “destination” for not only Hamburg residents, but for everyone who passes through the area, he said that it has become less comfortable, recently, partially due to the air conditioning system’s failure.

The announcement that the library had received a New York state grant for $290,000 kick-started the local facility’s two-phased project, which will be spread over two years.

Phase one will include the installation of the new air conditioning and heating systems, the demolition of the existing meeting room and ramp, site preparations and the building of a new shell for the

addition. Everything will be moved out of the present building, to allow for the installation of a new sprinkler system, rug and more.

“The plan is to operate out of the new space while changes are being made,” Edson said.

A triple-sized meeting room will be built and the library will provide more computers and Internet access.

TIME TO READ — The current circulation section of the Hamburg Library will temporarily move, while upgrades are being made. Photo by Jessie Owen.
All of the library materials will be upgraded, to include radio-frequency identification tags. These will allow for a more sophisticated security system, according to the library director, and will also go along with the planned self-checkout kiosks.

“Twenty-five years ago, when the new ramp was built, it was a step forward,” Edson said. “With the new ramp, we want to show that everybody is welcome. A lot of people will use the new ramp; everyone will benefit from it.”

Additional plans include a new coffee shop, skylights, a fireplace, the circular indoor ramp, a potential backyard seating and water fixture area and more.

“We won’t be closing the library system for a long length of time, at any point,” Edson said. As soon as phase one is completed, the wall between the new and old parts of the library will be knocked down, to open up the building.

The new library will sprawl to the edge of the lot line, eliminating the Buffalo Street entrance. All patrons will enter at Union Street.

Edson said that the building plans were made flexible, to include whatever the future might hold. “The world has changed drastically. Libraries have to adapt,” he said. “This is really a winner of a project. Our goal is to attract all ages.”

The library director has worked in Hamburg for 26 of his 40 librarian years and said that he appreciates the local community’s support of the library. “We’re in the heart of the village, which is really blossoming,” he said.

To commemorate the library as it currently appears, area kids are being invited to a free “paint the library” day from 2 – 4 p.m. on Aug. 17. Attendees will be given various paint colors and will be allowed to leave their mark on the walls of the existing meeting room. Food will be served, at the end of the event.

Edson said that a library board member had the idea to salvage pieces of the kids’ meeting room artwork for the new library.

A ground-breaking ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 24, followed by a reception and cocktails in the library. There is a charge for this event; RSVP at www.hplthinkingbig.com or 481-2553.

Phase two, the completion of the interior, is scheduled to begin in April, and Edson said that the entire project should be nearly complete, by this time next year.

The community may participate in the library’s fundraising efforts, in several ways. The library board has set a goal of raising $400,000, during the next year. Donations may be made directly to the library, or community members may purchase engraved bricks, in a variety of options, that will be placed along the library’s front walkway.

In addition, contributors may choose to purchase naming rights or sponsorships for various elements in the library.

For more information or to make a donation, call 649-4415 or visit www.hplthinkingbig.com. The library is located at 102 Buffalo St. in Hamburg.

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