"It's the heart of the community and the entire city," said Farley. "It's a place for people that can't afford to go anyplace else."
The Friends of the Schenectady County Library, a group of volunteers that have raised about $2 million for the redesign project, largely agree with Farley. Many were in attendance at the informational meeting, but did not speak in front of the Legislature. Public privilege of the floor is reserved for the Legislature's regular meeting on Monday, May 12.
The Friends were shocked last week when they heard the library could close for more than a year. Members of the group told reporters that they were under the impression that the library could remain open while construction occurred in several phases.
Eleanor Rowland, the group's volunteer coordinator, said the Legislature should revert to a plan proposed by the library's Board of Trustees several ago that retained the McChesney Room and eliminated what she called "frills" like the small cafE.
"The trustees had an excellent plan," said Rowland. "The (current) plan got too elaborate."
Library Director Andy Kulmatiski, though, said he's in the process of working out a deal with Proctors CEO Philip Morris that could allow the main branch library to move some of its materials to a satellite venue, inside the theater's complex. Kulmatiski said he would also work to expand programs at the system's nine branches, located throughout the county, and other sites downtown.
Harold Wusterbarth, the Friends' treasurer, said that people are beginning to demand a return of their donations because they're angered by the branch's potential closure.
"I may have to return the money," said Wusterbarth. "We have to get back to a simpler plan."
County Democrats were equally wary of the proposed closure, which could become an election issue. Chair Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, and Diane Johnson, D-Schenectady, questioned the project's public popularity and Legislator Philip Fields, D-Schenectady, asked Ward if there was any way to reduce the scope of the project to shorten the closure.