OSWEGO, NY ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ The Oswego Public Library was officially opened Saturday, celebrating the completion of a project that renovated and enlarged the historic building.
Bernie Henderson, the MC for the afternoon, welcomed the huge crowd packed into the newly renovated section of the library.
“It’s so good we have such a large turnout, even though the weather is less than ideal,” he said.
Henderson also volunteers as treasurer for the library board.
More than 150 years ago, Oswegonians gathered in the same spot to dedicate their first-ever library, he pointed out.
“So, it’s appropriate that we gather here to re-dedicate this beautifully restored (and expanded) building,” he said.
The newly renovated building adds more than 14,000 square feet of space to the library.
The ceremony got under way as members from the 174th Fighter Wing in Syracuse participated in a special flag ceremony.
The flag was donated, in honor of Oswego’s veterans, by Congressman John McHugh and has been flown above the nationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s capital in Washington, D.C., according to Carol Ferlito, library director.
The flag was to have been raised on the library’s flagpole, but the rain forced the ceremony indoors.
The flag will be raised on the next sunny day in Oswego, Henderson said.
Bill McCarthy accepted the donation on behalf of the local veterans.
Assemblyman Will Barclay congratulated everyone involved with the restoration/expansion project and conveyed well wishes from former senator James Wright, a staunch supporter of the library.
“Wow,” Oswego County Legislator Paul Santore marveled as he looked around the room. “Can you remember a few years back when we had a wall-banging ceremony about where we’re standing?”
At that time, there were some questions on whether the library could ever be saved.
“Looks like we did it,” Santore said to a loud ovation from the crowd.
“The Preservation League of New York State is truly honored to here among you today,” said Tania Werbizky, the league’s regional director of technical and grant programs in the western/central New York.
Almost 10 years ago, they placed Oswego’s library on their “Seven To Save” list.
“It wasn’t a finger-pointing exercise, but rather our statement from a statewide perspective that this place was incredibly special and worth the extra effort and effort beyond that yet again,” she said.
Libraries are “community anchors ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ and in need of financial support,” she pointed out.
Oswego’s is also the oldest continuously operated public library in New York State, she added.
“Continuously operating as a library. Believe me, we questioned that several times because that makes us say, ‘it is unique in the state,’ and we don’t use that word lightly,” she said.
Oswego will be a model for the future, showing others that it can be done, she said.
“This is a building that we’re going to be bragging on in the future to other communities all over the state,” she said. “Job well done!”
Charlie Young, past board of trustees president, offered a brief history of the library. Current president, Mary Shanley, recognized the board, past and present, who worked so hard to preserve the historic landmark. She also cited the myriad of volunteers who did what they could to ensure the library not only survived, but flourished.
Mayor Randy Bateman commended the community for rallying behind the library and helping out financially.
He also recognized Oswego native Erik Cole. The NHL star created a program to greatly assist his hometown library.
“I have to tell you, I am feeling a bit of relief,” veteran library trustee Mercedes Niess said after the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We knew this day would come; but it was a long road to get here.”
“We declare this building saved! It’s exciting. We don’t always get to say that,” Werbizky said. “It’s fantastic. When I go back to the office next week I can tell them I was in one of our ‘saved’ buildings in our seven to save list.”
In addition to the renovation and structural rehabilitation of the historic building, the project doubled the space of the childrenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s room by moving it from the lower level to the top ?oor; added a community meeting room; increased facilities such as restrooms; improved accessibility to all ?oors including the installation of an elevator; increased book stack space; added more computer stations and updated network technology; created a Young Adult area; provided private/quiet areas for tutoring students; provided for rotating art exhibits; and now offers a local history/genealogy room.
For additional information on the Oswego Public Library, call (315) 341-5867 or visit www.oswegopubliclibrary.org