In 1902, Andrew Carnegie gave $25,000 for the construction of the Amsterdam Free Library building, allowing what was previously a “library society” or “subscription library” to transition to a full-fledged library. Over a century later, the library is approaching another historic change as they plan a $4.3 million project that will be partially funded with $1.8 million from the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant received by the city last year.
The project will involve adding a new 3-story addition perfect for poetry reads, plays, workshops and other small group activities. The structure will also house a conference room as well as resources to help jump-start new small businesses. The existing addition, added several decades ago, will also be renovated.
Below are initial concepts that were submitted to the DRI committee. Click any image to enlarge.
Amsterdam Free Library Director Nicole Hemsley related, “It started out as a light-hearted remark that we should tear down the old addition and put in a new one. Next thing I knew, I was invited to participate in DRI meetings.” In that moment, it dawned on her. “This is what we needed to give the city what it needs.”
Planning the perfect space began in October 2018, with final plans submitted in March of this year. The new business incubator will grant ample space for conferences with a few extras. In addition to office space, start-up businesses will have access to fax machines, a 3-D printer, and a green screen for video production.
Hemsley believes a key element for a young business is to have a home-base of operation for meetings and transactions.
“Larger cities have them, but you have to pay. This is something on the small scale where people can come and use it for free,” she said.
In Hemsley’s opinion, the demand on young people to be successful by earning a high-standing college degree brands our mentality. This belief causes trade industries to lose potential employees causing shortages for specialized skilled labor, such as plaster repair.
“We’re failing a lot of these kids by the constant harping. Some people are not built for [college] and that’s okay,” she said.
Hemsley believes we’ve lost sight of the spirit of entrepreneurship – the idea of starting your own business and being your own boss – with the constant insistence of “you have to go to college.”
In order to raise the additional $2.5 million for the project the library is pursuing additional grants from the state including the New York State Aid for Library Construction program with the help of City of Amsterdam Community and Economic Development Director Amanda Bearcorft. There may also be fundraisers such as bus trips, so people can have a good time while supporting the library.
“Typically areas that receive the DRI awards are more likely to receive other grants. It’s no lump-sum. We’re just going to keep throwing at it in pieces,” she added.