By PHIL NOBILE
Financial assistance in the form of state grants has been awarded to the Harrison and West Harrison public libraries during a revisionary period for the aging buildings.
In a combined effort by state Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, and state Assemblyman David Buchwald, a White Plains Democrat, the two libraries will receive $60,000 in additional funds for infrastructure projects to improve the respective buildings. The funding comes from a $14 million public library construction grant program pioneered by the New York State Education Department to alleviate state library infrastructure and development woes.
Latimer, who announced his re-election bid recently for his second two-year term in the senate, emphasized the importance of local libraries. He said he hopes the grant money would bring the Harrison facilities further into the 21st century.
“Our libraries are centerpieces of every community, and it’s important that they continue to thrive and provide valuable resources to local residents,” Latimer said. “Between programs, facilities and many other services, these funds will allow our local libraries to continue providing those services at a continued or even greater level.”
The Harrison library will receive $45,000 of the total funds awarded to make modern enhancements to the children’s room section of the building, such as purchasing new tablets and computers; interactive toys in the walls and new shelving throughout the room; game stations for older children and teens, and space for families to interact with other children and community members, according to library director Galina Chernykh.
“It will be exciting, interactive space to support a variety of ages and learning styles,” Cherynkh, who is in her second year as library director, said. “We are very grateful and happy to receive the grants.”
The West Harrison library will use the $15,000 in grants it received to replace 20 steel-frame windows with heavy-duty commercial frames that will provide better safety and energy efficiency—features Buchwald stressed as highly important.
“This funding will help our libraries reduce energy costs and ensure their buildings are safe and up-to-date for many years to come,” Buchwald, who has also announced his bid for re-election to the Assembly, said. “Our libraries provide an important service to our community, allowing families to take advantage of educational opportunities, computer access and a diverse array of books, audiobooks and DVDs to enjoy for both research and fun.”
Window replacement is just a small portion of current problems for the West Harrison library.
In April, Chernykh requested more than $300,000 in capital funds from the Town Council, prioritizing issues with the West Harrison branch first and foremost. According to Chernykh, the building’s ventilation and heater system dates back to 1988 and must be replaced to the tune of more than $50,000. The capital requests also include replacement doors, carpet and interior painting.
The Harrison Town Council has not made a decision to fund Cherynkh’s capital budget requests as of press time.
Despite the issues, Chernkyh said residents in the district value the little library immensely, and the new windows will make a huge difference.
The Harrison Public Library has been undergoing a renovation project as the early stages of rebuilding the main Harrison library have been put in motion. The project calls for multiple updates and a full-scale renovation, such as turning unused space into a teen center and equipping the entire 2 Bruce Ave. facility with new technology and amenities.
In February, the Town Council chose a managing architect for the project, and an encompassing, interactive five-year strategic plan was publicly revealed, detailing six points for the library’s future: revitalize, promote, expand, lead, cultivate and stabilize.
Most of the funding for the project has come from donations to the Harrison Public Library Foundation and Richard E. Halperin Memorial fund, which was set up by Ross Halperin in his father’s name who passed away in 2008. So far only $3.1 million has been accrued of a $3.6 million goal, with the town pledging $1.1 million for the project in April 2013.
Chernykh declined to comment as to future dates or developments for the renovation project, or when the project would move into a construction phase, but said an announcement would be made soon.