The New York State Education Department is awarding $34 million in state aid to more than 230 public libraries statewide in need of various capital upgrades. State Assemblyman Sean Ryan joined representatives of several local branches to reveal what's coming to local recipients.
Ryan appeared outside the Crane Branch on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo to make the announcement. He explained the $34 million was library construction money originally slated for elimination but lawmakers were able to restore it.
From that sum, $3.1 million will be divided among 30 branches in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara Counties. (A full list of libraries receiving grants may be viewed here.)
"One point six million is coming into Buffalo and Erie County," said Ryan. "We chose to highlight the Crane Library today, because they received the largest grant."
The branch is receiving $950,000 for work, most of which will improve access for people with disabilities, including replacing the elevator and restrooms. Work at the Crane Branch is expected to begin soon.
"Phase One's been bid out and our partners and landlords, the City of Buffalo, estimate our construction to begin later this year or early next year," said Ken Stone, chief financial officer for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System. "Phase Two will begin as soon as Phase One completes."
Other local library projects include construction of a 5,000-square-foot addition at the Audubon Library in Amherst, replacement of aging HVAC systems at the Boston Free and North Collins libraries, two new air conditioning units at the Eden Library, and roof repairs at the Ewell Library in Alden.
According to the State Education Department: "Project activities eligible for awards include financing construction of new library buildings, construction of additions to existing buildings, and the renovation or rehabilitation of existing space. The projects can include roof replacement, purchase and installation of alternative energy sources and new HVAC systems, windows, doors, and lighting systems, electrical upgrades, and construction of new or replacement of old walkways and parking lots. New furniture, shelving and equipment, including computer equipment, can be purchased for new or newly renovated space. Broadband infrastructure projects are also eligible. Renovations designed to provide accessibility for patrons with disabilities is a high priority. Priority is also given to projects that will extend library services to people residing in geographically isolated and economically disadvantaged communities."
Ryan says the public has come to depend more on the public library system during the pandemic.
"During COVID they've stepped up and they've become the place for people who don't have adequate internet services to download school assignments, to download things for work," Ryan said. "People access that by sometimes coming into the branch and other times you'll see, after branch hours, people are on the front stoop or they are in the parking lot using the internet services."