Kent Library gets rave reviews

(Original publication: January 2, 2005)

KENT ­ Two-year-old Leah Tierney plopped herself down in front of a bookshelf one recent afternoon in the Kent Public Library. Her pink-hiking-boot-clad feet splayed in front of her, the toddler pulled book after book off the shelf and passed them to her mother.

Photo Copyright © 2005 by Jeff Green

With its grand-opening celebration just about a month in the past, the new library was offering Leah something the old one couldn't ­ space. The building's seemingly overflowing elbow room was illustrated by Leah's sprawling on the brown carpet, her mother kneeling comfortably close by, and the separate wings housing the children's and adults' sections.

"It's great. They did a wonderful job," said Michelle Tierney. "Kids love it. That's why we come here."

Gone are the cramped reading areas, the narrow aisles and the days of storing children's books and supplies in the employees' bathroom in the library's former home ­ an almost 3,000-square-foot building about two miles south of the new library on Route 52. The new one is 10,600 square feet in size. It has a computer room with a dozen machines and boasts separate rooms for local history materials and teenagers. Another room holds computers for participants in the library's SeniorNet program, computer instruction for adults over 50.

There also is shelf space for all of the library's 40,000 volumes, many of which spent time in boxes or cabinets or just shoved on top of the shelves in their old quarters.

"I didn't even think there was this many books in the other one because it was so small," said Sammy Bookbinder, 12, who attends George Fischer Middle School in Carmel. She was reading in the library's teen room.

The library was formed in 1964, and yearnings for more space surfaced around 1990. Like most Putnam County libraries, the Kent one struggled to keep pace with a growing population, town and library officials said.

Kent's is the second new library to open this year. The Mahopac Library opened in a new, expansive building in March, but is now temporarily closed because of a burst water pipe.

Donald Haney, president of the Kent Public Library's board of trustees, said the new facility was "a real comfortable building."

"When you walk in and see children stretched out on the carpet reading books ­ it does something to me," Haney said.

Plans for the new library were unveiled in 2001. The building is part of a recently completed municipal complex that also contains the Kent Police Department and the Town Hall.

Karen LaRocca-Fels, the assistant director, said the library was now building its collection instead of just updating it, meaning one book is no longer discarded for every one purchased.

She said only two problems remained ­ learning how to keep the heat at comfortable levels in the different rooms and improving on the computer-printed, letter-sized signs directing patrons from the parking lot to the front of the large building.

Employees, she said, are also getting acclimated to the expansive circulation counter.

"We were always hitting up against one another behind the old one," LaRocca-Fels said.

Ian Mitchell, 5, of Lake Carmel spent a few moments last week mounting a one-boy puppet show in the children's area. From behind a small, curtained stage, Ian thrust his hand disguised as Winnie the Pooh through the opening, twisting and turning the yellow bear figure.

"I think it's a great investment," Jim Mitchell, Ian's dad, said of the library. "It just makes a big improvement in the community."

Reach Michael Risinit at or 845-228-2274.Reach Michael Risinit at or 845-228-2274.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005