Skip to content

New Light Provides New Life For Library

March 19, 2010

by Zachary Olsavicky

From an exterior vantage, the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library system looks like a fortress, with an imposing brick façade and tall windows framed in aluminum. Take a step inside, however, and you’ll find lots of open space, walls painted a relaxing shade of canary yellow, and a noticeable amount of natural light. Among other new features in the library, improving the library’s lighting was part of a $4.8 million renovation of the building that re-opened to the public last November. And since the re-opening, the library’s collection has grown and the community has responded favorably.

The building was originally used by the New York Telephone Company, and the Pine Hills library relocated there in 1990.

“There’s still telephone equipment in the basement,” said branch librarian Christina Stenson-Carey.

The building provides the library with a unique advantage—it was designed to be soundproof from the outdoors, resulting in a surprising level of silence inside the repository near where three main thoroughfares converge – Western, Madison and Allen. However, the old configuration of the building had its disadvantages. The second floor was used for office space, so the library had very little room, and much of the building’s interior design was unpleasant.

“It was… the worst late ‘80s gray and mauve rehab job, which was when this location became the Pine Hills library,” said Stenson-Carey.

The building was “dank and dark,” according to librarian Tom Markessinis. He has worked doing a farrago of jobs for the library for two years, but has been a patron for five years. He remarked that the carpet was “really gross,” and that it constantly looked dirty. But the renovation eliminated many of those problems. Now, a light monitor on the roof allows an abundance of natural light to illuminate the library. The second floor is now in use, doubling their space to 19,000-square-feet and allowing for the addition of 50,000 new pieces to the library’s collection. The Pine Hills branch is also the first in the state to use a classification system other than the Dewey Decimal System, instead the non-fiction books are arranged by subject categories.

Tom Powers, a patron of the Pine Hills library for more than three decades, is impressed with the remodeling. He mentioned the lighting in the library and had high praise for the library staff, calling them “courteous and helpful.” What most impressed him about the new building was the improved music section. “They have a very nice selection of diverse music that you can get. There’s a wide range of stuff.”

One of the more eclectic parts of the library is the collection of Chinese language media, which has more than 2,000 books, 1,000 videos and audio CDs, and a children’s section. Xiaofei Li, who has worked at the library for almost eight years, has been building the section since 2003. Starting with an inaugural budget of $1,500, the collection has slowly grown over seven years into the largest Chinese media collection in an Upstate New York public library. Li said a number of students from area schools use the collection, but most patrons for that material are working professionals. The collection has attracted users from many Capital District areas, but can only be checked out by members of the Upper Hudson library system.

The library also has two new community meeting rooms, which are used by local groups like the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association and reading tutors.

“It’s free space, which is kind of hard to come by,” said Stephanie Simon, the public information officer for the Albany Public Library System. She also offered praise for the library’s classification system, which arranges sections of the library by three age groups: children, teens, and adults. Each section of the library also has computers for patrons to use, instead of putting all computers in one area.

Since the reopening of the library, statistics have shown an increase in library users. Circulation has grown by 7,000 from January of 2008 and computer use has also increased significantly. The librarians are happy to see the building get so much use. As Stenson-Casey put it, “This is one of those places where people get to meet and talk to each other.” -30-

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: