One of the Village of Stamford’s most essential institutions is the Stamford Village Library (SVL). While budget cuts and real estate development have led to library closures across the US, the SVL continues to run on all cylinders thanks to the generosity of local foundations and individuals and the dedication of its six part-time staff. Patricia Parks moved to the Stamford area in 1968, graduated from Stamford Central School and had been a patron of the library for years before she was asked whether she would be interested in being a librarian. She has been working at the library since 2002 and is currently its manager. SVL is a charter member of the Stamford New York Business Alliance and we are pleased that Patricia took the time to discuss the SVL’s history, its programs and the challenges of operating a library during the pandemic.
Can you tell us a little about the library’s history?
The Stamford Village Library received its original charter in 1907 and opened at 132 West Main Street with about 400 books. (Today it offers over 30,000 items!) Doctor Stephen Churchill left a gift of money and property in his will for the building of a library and it was opened at the current location at 117 Main Street in 1926. It was known as the Free Public Library of Stamford at that time. The library in its current form moved in in 1946. In 1961 the building was renovated, largely made possible by the generosity of Avery Robinson and Fred Murphy.
The library received a generous bequest from the estate of Maud Baird in 2003. Today we thank the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation, the O’Connor Foundation, CORE Values, the towns of Jefferson and Harpersfield, and our many supporters for their assistance.
Tell us about some of your programs.
Our library services are free to the public; we also make photocopies and faxes for a small fee. We belong to the Four County Library System and can borrow materials from the libraries of Broome, Chenango, Otsego and Delaware Counties. New patrons are able to apply for library cards at FCLS.org and start placing holds on books or downloading ebooks, movies and music today! Call us at (607) 652-5001 or email us email@example.com if you have any questions. We have a website and a facebook page at facebook.com/svlny.org. While you’re there, check out our regular local history posts.
For a small village library with only six part-time staff, we’re really proud of our programs. We offered 467 free programs to the public last year. They included computer one-on-one classes, a Resume Revamp, weekly storytime, yoga, spirituality, and a local history series, to name just a few. We offered a large print book group and exchange at the assisted living facility. I have to hand it to the staff and our patrons for coming up with some great ideas. We would like to extend a huge thank you to Robinson Broadhurst for their generous funding for programs as we look forward to expanding our offerings even more. For example, we had a nice donation of a telescope and stand and night-sky binoculars and, as a result, we’re anticipating having an astronomy program once the situation allows it.
What do you see as SVL's role in the Stamford community?
We consider ourselves a “general store” type of library. Many of our patrons are regular visitors and friends and stay for a while to chat and to share opinions on books, movies and just about everything else! We checked in with some of our patrons during the shutdown to make sure they were OK. You’ll frequently find fresh produce someone brought in to share in the summer.
What are the challenges in operating SVL in normal circumstances and now with the pandemic?
Space has been an issue in the library. We’d like to offer study rooms, community meeting space, and to have more space for programs such as yoga, which is held three times a week. We’d like more room for our patron computers so that they don’t have to share space with various other users of the library. That being said, we feel that we’re up to the challenge of running a modern library in an older building!
Covid-19 has definitely had a big impact on the library in every area. We are currently open by appointments of up to 45 minutes for computer use and general browsing of materials. In addition, we continue to offer curbside pickup for those who are more comfortable with that. We require all patrons and staff to wear masks in the building, and are waiting impatiently for some polycarbonate barriers for the circulation desks. Finding personal protective equipment for staff and patrons has not been easy, and has taken a big bite out of our supplies budget! We miss the contact with our regular patrons and the chance to make new friends, and appreciate everyone’s patience and kindness in this time of upheaval. Staff are working really hard to meet people’s needs during the pandemic and to offer as many services as possible. Storytime and yoga, for example, have gone online on our Facebook page and have had over 100 viewers at times. While our visitor numbers are down for now, we anticipate increased levels of service and will continue to improvise!
Thanks for being a member. Any last thoughts on the Alliance?
We’re excited about the positive energy in the community and pleased to be a member of the Stamford New York Business Alliance. As a long-time area resident I love the enthusiasm and creativity brought by the group and look forward to seeing Stamford reinvigorated and loved for its present as well as its past.