UPPER JAY - The reopening of the newly restored Wells Memorial Library on Saturday was warmly received by residents and visitors alike.
"I am immensely relieved," said Marie-Anne Azar Ward, president of the Wells Memorial Library board. "I had a positive attitude throughout it that we could do it, that we would do it, but it was challenging."
Five months ago, the library was forced to close after floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene damaged its interior, including the building's heating and electrical systems, walls and flooring, and several book collections. It was then that the grueling cleanup process began.
The Wells Memorial Library’s reopening celebration on Saturday afternoon draws a large crowd, including locals, visitors and politicians.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Margaret Moran)
Azar Ward characterized the work as "dirty" and "unpleasant," but there were those willing to lend a hand.
"We had volunteers carry out buckets of mud out of the basement, then we had volunteers ripping out the entire heating system out of the basement, and then we had a group of volunteers ripping out the drywall," she said. "It just went on and on and on and on."
The assistance provided by volunteers was praised by local politicians who attended the library reopening celebration.
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The Wells Memorial Library is located at 12230 state Route 9N, Upper Jay, and it's open four days a week. Its hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
"Thank you to each and every one of you," said town of Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas. "So many families were affected (by Irene), but what truly amazes me is that families and volunteers that had their own homes affected still came out and helped other people, including here to make this wonderful library whole again."
People not only donated their time to the cleanup effort but made material donations to the library, as well.
"We received books and financial donations from around the country, and also impassioned cards and letters that people sent, talking about how much their library meant to them and that's what encouraged them to help us," library director Karen Rappaport said.
She said she has been in "amazement" over the outpouring of support the library has received in the past few months.
"The library is undoubtedly very important to the community," Azar Ward said. "We knew the library had always been a focus of the community since it opened its doors in 1907. It has historically been a meeting place, a place where people come, and it's true today as it was in 1907."
Micah Peterson, of Jay, is a regular patron of the library. She said she and her husband bring their two children there about twice a week.
"It's a place to come that's not the house and is a change in scenery," she said. "A place where they (the children) can come and read books and play."
Peterson said the library looks great.
"It's nice to see that it's pretty much back to normal," she said.
Cliff Donaldson of Saranac Lake, a regional administrator for the state Department of Labor, brought a message of praise from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"He's proud of what you have done," Donaldson said, referring to Cuomo. "He is proud he was able to help this community, this library, which is one of the hearts of the community, back on its feet. So on behalf of the governor, congratulations on getting the Wells Memorial Library open again and usable for the people of this community."
"There's a lot of work still ahead of us - we have to completely re-landscape - but I just feel that the bulk of the work is behind us now and we can just enjoy providing a service to the community," Azar Ward said.