Millions of dollars and years of work went in to building and renovating the five Albany Public Library branches. In the year since they've opened, the branches have proven to be more than just places to store books -- they're interesting public spaces.
If you haven't gotten around to visiting them (and you should), here's a virtual tour...
Each of the libraries are different in look, feel and energy -- but there are a few features you'll find at all five. They each have free wi-fi, separate areas for teens, adults and children, comfortable chairs that have swivel "desks" for laptop use, and lots of light.
Arbor Hill/West Hill - 148 Henry Johnson Blvd - Grand Opening June 12, 2010
The most striking thing about the Arbor Hill/West Hill branch is its 60-foot-by-24-foot wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. It's contemporary construction in a neighborhood of mostly older buildings.
The bamboo front desk is the first thing you see as you enter the two sets of doors.
Look to the right and you'll see the atrium framed by those floor-to-ceiling windows.
The high ceiling has exposed beams and vertical hanging lights. (People often assume the library has a second floor because the building is so tall.)
A long stretch of bamboo benching takes up an entire wall.
This branch doesn't have any outdoor space, so the outside was brought in. Behind those bamboo benches sits a lush and green indoor garden.
At this library you can check out your book with the "self-serve" machine. It's being beta-tested only at Arbor Hill.
The Arbor Hill branch has a collection of 75,000 items, including a large selection of African American books.
John J. Bach - 455 New Scotland Avenue - Opened May 10, 2010
The Bach is 8,500 square feet of contemporary architecture. It has an open floor plan and a glass walled rotunda that brings in lots of light and a view of New Scotland Ave.
Look up when you walk inside and you'll see interesting molding and light fixtures that fit in well with the bright, warm colors.
Many of the shelving units are set on wheels so that they can be easily moved when an event is taking place.
There's plenty of seating and desk space available in front of the window and comfortable chairs with swivel desks for laptops.
In the warmer months the "story garden" is open. Patrons are welcome to sit and read under the black walnut trees.
The Bach features a new collection of 30,000 items.
Delaware - 331 Delaware Ave - Doors Opened Dec 28, 2009
Funeral home turned hub of community happenings, the Delaware is 9,500 square feet of open-style space with exterior Prairie-style architecture.
Exposed venting, high ceilings and skylights make the building feel larger and more open than in its original form.
The teen area at Delaware is where the embalming room used to be.
The reference desk is at the back of the building near the adult computers.
Mission style furniture was chosen to give the library a warm feeling.
And kids toys are available within the children's area and around the library.
The branch received the 2010 Outstanding Public Library Building Award from the New York Library Association. It has 35,000 items in its collection (including a large graphic fiction section).
John A. Howe - 105 Schuyler Street - doors Opened March 15, 2010
The Howe was built in 1929, but in 2010 an addition was added on to the side-rear of the library.
It's now 12,000 square feet.
The children's area is large with lots of floor space.
It has a fireplace with a Rip Van Winkle theme.
The old character of the building has been maintained and restored over the years, including old floor tile.
The Howe has a new collection of 35,000 items and received the 2010 Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse Merit Award from the Eastern New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Pine Hills - Doors Opened Nov 16, 2009 - 517 Western Ave
At 19,000 square foot Pine Hills is the largest of the branches. Renovations expanded the library space in the former New York Telephone building from one floor to two.
The front desk is wide and has a great view of the large light monitor that was cut into the roof.
A calming blue grand staircase is the focal point.
It takes you to the second floor where the adult computers and books sit.
The children's section, on the first floor, is large with many places to sit.
A fun kids wall mural is bright and cheery (look for the alligator when you visit).
Pine Hills has a 50,000 piece collection, including a large Chinese language section of magazines, books and DVDs. Pine Hills also received the 2010 Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse Merit Award from the Eastern New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
A special thanks to Stephanie Simon, Patrice Hollman and Ethel LaPier of the Albany Public Library for their assistance with this piece.
The library board's proposed budget for next year includes a 25 percent increase in the tax levy. The system says the new funding will cover the increased operating costs of the expanded spaces, help meet the increased demand for services, and expand hours of operation.
The public vote on the budget is May 17, the same day as the school budget vote.
Earlier on AOA: Troy's main library: an inspiration
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