At the height of the pandemic lockdowns, many community members parked in front of the Canajoharie library to connect to the wireless internet.
That fact alone, shared on Friday by Sue Friedlander, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Arkell Library and Museum, sums up the seriousness of what the arts and culture installation on Erie Boulevard means to the community.
U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado D-Rhinebeck, who represents New York’s 19th Borough, understands that sentiment. That’s why he named the Canajoharie Library and the Arkell Museum for a 2022 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the highest national honor bestowed on libraries and museums for their service to their communities.
According to Friedlander, the results will be published this spring.
It’s also why Delgado spent over an hour touring the facility on Friday, listening intently as the historian guided him through everything from the Beech-Nut factory in the 1890s, which engineers patented. the vacuum jar, to an 1869 painting by Winslow Homer which, before hanging in the 1929 gallery space that was Bartlett Arkell’s inspiration, was once part of a larger painting than ‘Homer split into several units as the larger version received severe reviews.
But despite the history so obvious, especially when it is in the original library structure which dates from 1925, it is the look to the future of the establishment that impresses Delgado, especially since libraries strive to involve the younger generations.
“Because sometimes they can see libraries as dated from their perspective,” Delgado said. “So how do you marry this world that was so critical, so essential for so long, with some of the newer models? If we can marry them, we get the best of the two.
The Canajoharie Library and Museum is full of modern ideas and programs already in place. And many of those ideas come from librarian Maria Cancro, 27, who has only been in office since March but will be promoted to library director in January. The library has just three full-time staff, as well as 11 part-time, according to Cancro.
Making the library free was one of its top priorities, a policy that is gaining traction with libraries across the country. The Canajoharie Library went well for free earlier this month, and Cancro, who has a master’s degree in library science from Syracuse University, said the goal is to send a welcome message rather than a message of potential shame.
“It does not serve good purpose to bring in good people. You are penalizing them for being human in a way, ”she said. “The free aspect of fines is really important because it allows people to enter the library without reservations that there will be a problem. ”
The spirit of hospitality extends to all that the cultural institution offers. Yes, there are the books on the shelves and the paintings in the galleries. But the library and the museum also provide critical access to technology. This includes weekly tech sessions that Cancro runs where visitors can get help with everything from learning how to set up a new phone to finding out how to send videos to grandchildren. . It includes access to a computer or fax machine, or even a laptop to borrow like a book. It also includes innovative programs such as YouTube videos coinciding with artistic content or the development of a podcast, on which children can hear their favorite books read aloud and learn more about the story and the author.
Delgado was won over by the avant-garde ideals of the library.
“If there’s that kind of revolving door that doesn’t come with a penalty, it’s just one more psychological barrier you’re removing,” he said. “I think it’s about keeping up with the technology. As technology advances, you want to make sure people are more connected, have more access points. And think outside the box too.
Cancro excels at innovative thinking that doesn’t push too far, Friedlander said.
“It’s a bit like coming out of medical school. The best young doctor will have the best and most recent information, and I see a lot and more in [Cancro]”Friedlander said.” But I also see in her the ability to not roll out the best, the new, the freshest idea if it isn’t right for us. ”
This is important in a historic village like Canajoharie which, like a library, must think about its future without losing sight of its past.
The possible future of the former Beech-Nut packaging plant as a site for cannabis grow company E29 Labs involves much the same dynamic.
“I like the progress that has been made,” Delgado said of E29 Labs. “I can’t speak directly about every detail of the project and what goes with it, I just know from what I’ve gathered and the contact I’ve had with the people on the ground, it’s good to see some type of development going on there. We know that for a very long time there has not been one. To be able to see that there is movement in that direction is a good thing.
The same goes for the library, Friedlander said.
“How can you add something, how can you improve it? Friedlander said. “You have to build on what is here and find your way. “
And, even though the doors are closed due to pandemic restrictions, you can still connect to Wi-Fi.
For more information, including information on current exhibitions at the Arkell Museum, visit canajoharielibrary.org.
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.
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Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie