Hoag Library reopens meeting rooms, looks to add electric charging stations

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 May 2021 at 11:27 am

Circulation currently at 40 percent of pre-pandemic levels

Photos by Tom Rivers: Hoag Library Director Betty Sue Miller speaks during the library’s annual meeting on Monday evening. Joyce Riley, board president is at far left, and Dawn Squicciarini, a newly elected trustee, is at center.

ALBION – Hoag Library is reopening its three meeting rooms to the public. Those rooms have been popular since the library moved to the new building in 2012. Before the pandemic, the three rooms were often booked throughout the day, with multiple organizations using them.

They have been off limits since mid-March 2020. Hoag two weeks ago let a small quilting group use one of the rooms. They can easily social distance and spread out their sewing machines.

The library held its annual meeting last night with the dividers removed and all three meeting rooms opened into one large space.

Betty Sue Miller, the library director, said people can now reserve a room. They can stop by the library in-person or use the Hoag website to make a reservation.

Although they are reopening, they can only be at up to 50 percent capacity and only one group will be allowed per day in a room, rather than back-to-back meetings the same day.

That will allow the rooms to be cleaned only once when the library closes for the day.

The main room has a capacity for up to 60 people, while the side rooms each hold up to 30 people.

Miller said the circulation use at the library is currently at about 40 percent of the pre-pandemic levels. She expects that to bounce back more as more programming returns to the library.

This summer, Hoag will run the summer reading program. There will be a 20-by-40-foot tent outside the library for six weeks for programs. The Friends of the Library is paying for the cost of the tent.

Hoag will be hosting book discussion and other programs are in the works. Miller also said two electric charging stations, with two units, also will be added to two parking spots at the library, with a NYSERDA grant helping with the costs.

“It puts us out there on the cutting edge,” Miller said.

Joyce Riley, outgoing president of the board of trustees, said library staff were creative in serving the public during the pandemic, offering curb-side delivery and more online programming, including storybook times through Zoom.

The library also will be replacing $23,000 worth of lightbulbs, replacing them with less-energy intensive LEDs.

Hoag also will be adding a book vending machine with books available to children in the Hoag service area ages 6 to 12. That machine and the books are funded by a grant from the Xerox Corp. and secured by former library trustee Elissa Nesbitt. The program will start once the book vending machine arrives and is set up.

It expands a book-giving program currently offered for children from birth to age 5. They are all eligible for a free book on their birthdays and around Christmas.

The library director also provided an update on the restoration of a flag from an African-American unit that fought in the Civil War. The flag has 35 stars. That’s how many stars were on the flag for two years from 1863 to 1865.

A donor provided $10,000 to have the Civil War flag restored. Spicer Art Conservation, LLC in Delmar near Albany has started the delicate process of first removing the flag from being glued to cardboard in a frame.

The flag is from a Colored Troops regiment. The 26th Regiment United States Colored Troops wasn’t for a local unit. Those troops were based out of New York City, although former County Historian Matt Ballard said the group was led by a local white soldier, Charles H. Mattison of Barre.

Hoag held its annual election on Monday. There were two candidates for two seats on the board. Dawn Squicciarini was elected to a three-year term with 30 votes, and Kevin Doherty, the former board president for 11 years, is back on the board with a one-year term as trustee. He received 19 votes.

The board then elected Linda Weller to serve as the president. The other board officers will be decided during the May 13 board meeting.

Weller thanked Joyce Riley for her service as president. Riley also commended the library staff for continuing to serve the community during a difficult year with changing guidelines in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Riley noted 211 new library cards were issued in the past year with about 900 others renewed.

“The staff showed flexibility and resiliency,” Riley said.