Troy Public Library
This is not the entrance.
The building I had always assumed was the Troy library is not, in fact, the library. This was after getting lost just trying to park. “You have reached your destination” said Siri as I drove under Russel Sage College. Um, no. (Rte 2 goes under Second Street). The giant white building is the court house, and the building next to that is the Supreme Court law library… then you have the Troy Public Library. This massive old building (well, American old, built in 1897) is built in an oversized, opulent style, with marble stairs, stained glass windows and roman pillars. A true temple of knowledge. It has that faint “old building” smell familiar in museums and used book shops. It is full of awkward little nooks and crannies, interesting to explore, but not fully accessible. While historical buildings are definitely worth preserving and sharing with the public, trying to run a modern library in one is a logistical nightmare. The library director has had to fight to get an elevator installed, and there is so much more that needs to be done, to keep the building from falling apart, to make spaces for all the things that a library does now that never occurred to the builders, from computer labs to event stages. Doors are left open to allow air flow through the building, which makes me wonder what this is like in the winter.
This is the kind of library that should have secret passages revealing underground lairs hiding cryptic clues leading heroes to solve puzzles. (Idea for next round of construction grants. You’re welcome.)
Up the stairs, past the computer lab, to a massive room with a fireplace. It looks like the check-out desk used to be here, back when you asked the librarian for a book and they went and got it for you. Which might still be a good idea, since the floor beyond is glass. Yes, glass. I’m sure it’s safe, but it gives a large lady like myself pause.
Look at this cool dumbwaiter for hauling books up and down!
The rows are very narrow.
One room upstairs is empty. No idea what’s going on there, but I love the built in shelves.
The children’s room downstairs has two fireplaces. They’ve decided to run with the eccentric vibe by adding a giant lady’s shoe chair and a fake moose head.
A little nook was painted to make it a cozy computer area.
All through the library were signs that librarians and library staff were working hard to keep the collection useful to the community, like a read-alike display for the “Wimpy Kid” series in the kids room, an urban fiction collection, and new books displays.
A little card on the mantle gives advice for parents on improving literacy with their young children.
I drove north, along the Hudson River, from downtown Troy. Past boarded up buildings, victorian mansions, gas stations, suburban neighborhoods and snug little houses.
I parked next to a house that is a good candidate for a horror movie, a victorian with a roof caved in from fire. Overgrown plants and a chained up iron fence for full effect. No, that wasn’t the library.
Whoever “B” is, he should be ashamed of himself. The front door is less than inviting. The hallway…
I later discovered that the two side doors were open for air current and would have been a nicer entry.
When I arrived there were many people using the computers, a mom reading to her son, a family leaving while their daughter cried to stay. The children’s area in the corner was inviting, with a carpeted platform in the middle for play or reading.
I know I’ve been pretty negative in this post, but it is not against the library staff or administration, who struggle to work with what they’ve got. The community deserves the same kind of new or renovated spaces that Albany has, and that means money. Libraries provide services that can help poor communities, things like internet access, information referrals, faxing, computer classes, English classes, meeting space, early literacy enrichment, entertainment and yes, books. It’s much easier to provide those things, to improve people’s lives, when you have a clean, spacious building that is energy efficient, stocked with new equipment and curated materials, staffed by people who are trained and well-compensated for their skills. Support your local library!
Jane is visiting all 36 locations of the Upper Hudson Library System (see introduction)