In September, 10 Attica community members got together and formed a fundraising committee to help generate enough money to assist in the renovations of the Stevens Memorial Library, Main Street, Attica.
Since October, the committee has raised close to $63,000 toward the improvements, thanks in part by the Attica Lions Club’s donation of $10,000. The Lions Club money was left over from the Attica Walking Path fundraiser the club held in 2015 - 2016 to repair the damages to the path at the Attica Veterans Memorial Park on Exchange Street.
“It was a feeling of ‘so…we can really do this’ from the committee,” said Library Director Nancy Burns. “We received $300,000 each from the Library Construction and Library Community grants, $50,000 from Senator (Patrick) Gallivan, and $63,000 the library committee has raised so far.”
Between the grants and other donations, the Library has $700,000 of the $800,000 to complete the whole project.
Committee members Barbara Helik and Teresa Wright, as co-chairs; and Emma Edwards, Maggie Dadd, Linda Camp, Sandra Eck, Amy Meisner, Charles Williman, Chris Kipfer, and Linda Kruszka, began actively raising funds in October.
Renovations will begin at the back entrance to comply with the American Disabilities Act. A ramp will be installed along the left side of the entrance and a new glass door will be set in place. In addition to the ramp, a set of four steps will also be available. That is, of course, after several walls are removed.
“We will be raising the floor and taking out some walls,” Burns said. “The idea is to have a more open feel with easy access to new releases, magazines, DVDs and holds. There will be a seating area, and the computers will be relocated to run along the left of the ramp. It will have a more open feel to it than the hackneyed set up it is now. It will be a huge benefit for our older patrons.”
The new open space will also house the circulation desk, as well as two additional desks and an art wall that will showcase art from the Arts Council of Wyoming County and other artists.
“They will be a highlight as patrons walk through the door. And instead of spending the money to get a new circulation desk, we are going to repurpose the old one.”
In addition to saving money on the desk, new windows will be installed for not only light and safety concerns, but energy efficiency as well.
The “children’s room” will remain virtually unchanged but for the addition of a “support” window so staff and parents can keep an eye on their youngest charges.
Not only is the library renovating the bathroom to be handicap accessible, it will be adding an additional one for convenience.
Once the circulation desk is moved from the library proper the open space will become the “program” space complete with a flat-screen TV for movies, games and presentations. The expanded area will also be used for story hour and more. Additionally, the stacks (bookshelves) will be rearranged for ease of use for people in wheelchairs.
And with all the moving of displays and desks, the library will feature new commercial carpet tile, for easy cleaning and replacement, as well as aesthetic purposes.
Once the rear of the building is complete, renovations to the Main Street entrance will begin.
“As you are facing the building from Main Street, the new entrance will be on the left of the building, closer to the parking lot, but with better safety measures for the little ones.”
The small porch – 12 by 15 feet – will be furnished in memory of Edwin Helak, who died April 7.
“When Edwin and his wife, Barbra, came in, one would often sit on the porch and wait for the other. So we are sort of looking at the seating as a ‘you go find a book, I’ll wait here until you’re done’ type of arrangement.”
Even with the new entrance, the concrete lions will remain sitting prominently at the front of the building. The statues will be moved to the front steps, however, and will be set on raised platforms to help preserve them.
The lions had become a landmark in Attica after the children of the Pauly family and their neighbors would often be found playing on them in the early 1900s.
The lions have made their rounds in the northwest corner of the county. According to the Attica Historical Society, the carved monuments were first delivered by rail from Colorado to the home of Cordon Thomson at 193 Main St., Attica, in the 1800s. They were then sold in the 1900s to Samuel Blanch Ford at 285 Main St.. Then the property was sold to Anton Pauly in 1910, which included the lions.
When the Main Street property was sold in 1978, the lions were not included in the sale. Instead, they were moved to the home of Karen Kell Acquard in Bennington, a relative of the Paulys. When Acquard and her husband decided to move to Florida around 1990, they donated the lions to the library.
They have had “considerable restoration,” courtesy of the Friends of Stevens Memorial Library, with “Ray Caryl and George Schmidt doing most of the work,” which included a permanent raised foundation.
Another addition to the front entrance will be both a handicap accessible door, as well as a standard door. There will also be an overhang to shelter patrons and the addition of four columns supports.
“We are trying to make the entrance blend in more with its surroundings. The committee worked hard to get the funding to make all this happen and we are excited for the project to start. Luckily, the library received the funding during the last grant cycle, as the governor (Andrew Cuomo) just proposed a $9 million cut to the public library system.”
The building which houses the library was built in 1823 and was home to the Stevens family. The last Stevens family to live in the home had no children of their own, and upon their death, the family gave the structure to the Village in 1893. The Village then turned the building into a library and funded it until the early 2000s.
According to Burns, sometime between 2001-2003, the library became a School District Library (NYS Education Department), catering to the Attica School District children and community.
“The proposed cut would be a huge impact to the library…it would take away the little grants that are inherent to getting programs and materials to expand services and programming at the library.”
In addition to the construction grant for the library’s renovations, Burns said the facility has received several grants last year that benefit its patrons.
• Tech Grant up to $1,500 to bring in a new technology. Stevens Memorial Library was able to purchase a 3-D printer and new laptop to run this printer. The funding bought the equipment, however, the library purchased the extended tech and warranty support;
• Play Spaces grant up to $900 to bring a new area of play for children. The library bought one Lego table complete with two chairs, and Legos and Duplo pieces ($700); and
• 1,000 books Before Kindergarten grant allowed the library to purchase quality paperback books for the kids to earn. For every 100 books a child 1 to 5 years old reads, the child can choose a book to take home and keep. Additionally, Wyoming County kids can earn an additional book every month from Project Read just by reading 15 minutes a day for 20 days.
“These are wonderful ‘little assistances' to all the libraries that will be be lost if aid is cut to the systems in New York State. If the $9 million is taken away, the Library Systems will be back at 2000 spending levels and just surviving their costs. Libraries are education and while tuition is important to families, school help for all students is up to the public libraries when the school doors close at 4 p.m. Attica is hampered by no cable outside the village limits, so the library is very busy for homework online assignments, information gathering, and printing.”
The library doesn’t just function on budgets and grants and state funding alone, it also relies on the patrons that support it, too.
Recently, the Stevens Memorial Library became a benefactor in the Brownstone Book fund, a private foundation in New York City. The foundation was founded by a NYC couple who were interested in “fostering early reading, a love of books and encouraging parents and children to read together.” The couple wishes to remain anonymous and only asks the library to put a “Brownstone Books” sticker on each of the 100 titles they received. The collection caters to children and mostly contains picture books.
“One of the best gifts you can give your child is the time spent reading with them,” Burns said.