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Shovels on Parade

Meg Van Patten, Librarian, Baldwinsville Public Library

Founded in 1948, the Baldwinsville Public Library was originally located in the rear room of the village’s former trolley station building on East Genesee Street. The library’s founders, the Baldwinsville Travelers Club, secured the space for the institution’s use, and filled it with books, periodicals and flowers for the opening day. Ruth Connell served as the first head librarian, and Helen Wright as assistant librarian.

In its first year, the Baldwinsville Public Library circulated nearly 1,000 books, and served over 7,000 visitors. In addition to its impressive collection, the library provided public programs including reading programs and art exhibits. Many B’Villians fondly recall sitting on the story benches during story hours. The small library was open short hours, but stayed open on Friday nights. Five years later, the Friends of the Library formed to provide financial and advisory support to the institution. By 1956 the library required additional space to support its expanding capacity and reopened in a converted house as 17 Charlotte Street.

Baldwinsville’s library joined the Onondaga County Library System in 1961. Membership provided consultation from system headquarters and shared services with other member libraries. In the early 1970s, Syracuse University’s Library Studies program produced a report on the present and potential future functioning of the Baldwinsville Library. Based on the study results, local residents voted to make the institution an official School District Public Library in 1974. With the school district charter came a firm source of funding, and the library began to look for a new properties. In 1975 they moved to the old Woolworth’s at 43 Oswego Street.

The next two decades saw substantial expansion in programming and technical capacity and services. In 1993 the Baldwinsville Public Library became the first public library in Onondaga County to offer free access to the internet. That year the library’s Board of Trustees proposed the construction of a new, custom-designed facility. The community overwhelmingly voted in favor of the project, and on October 29, 1994, the entire community participated in a groundbreaking ceremony that included a procession from the Oswego Street building to the library’s future site on East Genesee Street. Upon arrival at the new location, everyone took their shovels and turned some dirt. The library opened one year later to the day. Over 2,500 people attended the opening festivities at the new building designed by Baldwinsville-based architect Bruce King, a principal at Holmes, King, Kallquist & Associates. King designed the façade to blend with the local built environment — the details provide an illusion of different buildings and windows from Baldwinsville’s Four Corners.

Today, the Baldwinsville Public Library serves Baldwinsville’s youth, teen and adult populations by providing readers and researchers alike with a well-stocked collection of primary and secondary sources, and free internet access and word-processing, spreadsheet and database programs, which are all available at public computer consoles. In addition to the traditional resources the library offers electronic encyclopedias, magazine articles, downloadable music, e-books, downloadable audio books along with other online resources that can be accessed from the comfort of home with nothing more than a library card and PIN. Help is available via chat reference services 24/7.

In 2010 the Baldwinsville Public Library received a $244,517 Public Computer Center grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  Baldwinsville was one of thirty libraries across New York State to receive this federal stimulus grant through the New York State Library. The focus of the grant was on service to senior citizens, the unemployed/underemployed and small business. To that end library offered one-on-one help with resume review and writing, workshops focused on job hunting and small business skills.   In addition the grant provided computers as well as computer training, and the library also expanded hours to open at 9:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.

The library continues to offer a wide variety of engaging educational programs. From open writers’ groups to film screenings to courses like “Computer Skills in the Workplace,” the Baldwinsville Public Library offers myriad opportunities for residents to develop literacy, cultural fluency and vocational skills. The Library is also an outstanding repository of materials pertaining to local history, community planning and public art and design.

Meg Van Patten, Librarian, Baldwinsville Public Library

Meg was born in Syracuse, where she was raised in the Valley. In 6th grade she decided that she wanted to be a librarian, and at age 16 she walked into the local neighborhood library, where she began working as a page. Meg worked in city libraries throughout high school, and while she completed her BA in English and Library Science, as well as her Masters of Library Science at Syracuse University.

Meg accepted a position in Baldwinsville Public Library’s Adult Services division in 1979. When she started in B’Ville, the library had one part-time and two full-time librarians and a small support staff. Now they have a staff of seven full-time librarians along with a few part-time librarians and several support staff. As the World Wide Web developed and changed library science, Meg took on the network with enthusiasm, and she expanded Baldwinsville’s computing capacity from Apple IIEs with green screens and dot matrix printers to color printers/scanners. Meg was instrumental in Baldwinsville’s successful application to Project GAIN which gave rural libraries Internet access long before it became a household word. In 2013, Meg took over as the director of Baldwinsville Public Library.

In addition to her work with the library, teaches church school and is a New York State Fair culinary ribbon winner many times over. She has competed since 1990, and in 1996 she won 8th overall out of hundreds of confectionary submissions with the help of her mother’s lemon chiffon cake recipe. She also makes wedding cakes and does cake decorating for friends, neighbors and colleagues.