There was no “October Surprise” for those of us who attended the WNYLRC Taste & Tour event at the Hoag Library in Albion on Tuesday, October 13 – the anniversary of that memorable day in 2006! We were however, treated to a pleasant and humorous tour by Library Director, Betty Sue Miller, who along with one of the Library’s Board members, Kevin Doherty, gave us an incredible back story on the development of this wonderful community resource! From the concept to the execution, much thought and planning – with equal amounts of serendipity led to what is today a very popular destination in the Orleans County community of Albion.
The building was erected on the site of a former supermarket, beginning in 2010? and completed by 2013. The cost of constructing the 14,000 square foot building was estimated at $5million.(The Project was 5.1 million; the construction and furnishings were 3.1) The Library Board of Directors were very diligent and ingenious in seeking out financial support from the community, and were able to engage enthusiastic support from several key individuals whose names are now emblazoned on various rooms and structures throughout – including the Hoag name itself! The Library counted on community support to establish this terrific site and now, the community counts on the Library to help meet the diverse needs of all its “lifelong learners!”
Although no major problems were encountered in construction of the site, a few minor “hiccups” did occur. When ground was broken for the building, a white substance was discovered and initially thought to be asbestos – construction had to be halted until for two, the substance turned out to be coal ash from the former 19th century homes that had been on the site previous to the supermarket! The original plan included a vision for solar panels but budget concerns precluded their installation in initial construction – however, because the planners saw passive solar as a long term goal, they designed the roof to slope in a way that it would not have to be removed and reconstructed once the panels went in – and indeed, installation of roof was completed just days ago.
The interior has been reorganized and re-adapted to meet changing patron needs and interests, according to Ms. Miller, who began her career as a school librarian in the Holley Central Schools. For example, when the opportunity to acquire A 3-d printer came along, several shelf units were moved to make way for the new “maker space.” In the children’s room, shelving has been realigned in a way that allows people, especially the young patrons, access to the window areas indoors and small fenced-in garden area outdoors; and parents can easily see where their children are. The cap ends of shelves also have Lego boards on them, with buckets of Legos around so anyone, young or old, can create a Lego original if inclined to do so! But, if you just feel like “getting away from it all,” there is a comfy loft space above the main room where you can curl up with a good book, or listen to your music and enjoy the local art and collectibles unique to Albion residents and history that adorn the building throughout (including some stunning stained glass windows).
There are ample meeting spaces for all kinds of groups that use the library – one large room that runs the width of the building, can actually be partitioned into three smaller rooms. You’ll find book clubs, art groups, children’s programs, Scouting meetings and more taking place at all times of the day and evening! The library hosts a variety of events and special programs year round including writer’s workshops, live music performances and seasonal programs. The Library even uses Facebook to communicate with patrons; for example, they are now ordering travel books and are asking, “Where do you want to go?” so they can get materials to suit the travel plans of patrons! The Civil War collection of books is accessible to patrons in a unique way. Rather than browse through the catalog to find titles, patrons only need to look up and see the books themselves displayed above the shelving along the walls. Ms. Miller feels that this way the collection is safely out of reach, but is visible and more likely to be used than if it were stored away or behind a locked cabinet.
There is definitely a sense that patrons come first in this Library. It is an open, light and vibrant space that people of all kinds come into and feel welcome to enjoy the special spaces and materials of the Hoag Library!