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Oxford Memorial Library Goes Solar
by Nancy Wilcox

The Oxford Memorial Library is a small rural library in upstate New York housed in a beautiful “mansion” built in 1811 by famous covered bridge designer and builder Theodore Burr. In 1900 the building was given to the town to be used as a library. We are chartered by New York State as a school district library chartered to serve the Oxford Academy and Central School district.

In 2005 we began a major construction and renovation campaign raising funds to do several renovations to the library and to add a beautiful community room with its own entrance foyer, handicapped lift and restroom facilities.

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In 2011 New York State passed a tax cap law that limits how much government entities may raise the tax levy. The rate is limited to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lowest. Along with that the New York State minimum wage has seen several large increases. With the tax cap it is very difficult to compensate for the increase in salaries in the budget.

To help offset the cost of the tax cap and minimum wage increase and in an effort to be more environmentally friendly the Oxford Memorial Library has gone Green! The emissions-free project was in the works for over two years and is now complete and fully functional. The 66 solar panels make a dramatic display across the rear of the library’s parking lot. We are anticipating that the solar panels will provide 60-75% of the library’s electrical needs, drastically reducing our energy bill.

We were fortunate in that we were able to apply to NYSERDA (New York State Energy and Research Development) when they were still offering the incentive of $.80 per watt of PV X 18,720 watts which equaled $14,976.00. We applied for a New York State Construction grant and were awarded approximately $50,000 towards the project. We also received some other local donations and an anonymous grant so our out of pocket expense was minimal.

In order to get ready to lay the foundation for the solar panels we called in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to appraise the river bank and trees on the back side of our parking lot as we had to clear a space behind the parking lot. He ascertained that several of the trees were dead and an area of trees and brush were removed and the bank reinforced to prevent erosion. The trees were hauled away by my husband and used for firewood so nothing really went to waste.

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The solar panels set on several tons of concrete base and blocks were installed by Great Brook Solar of New Berlin, New York. Great Brook installed the inverter and all the electrical equipment necessary to connect to the utility grid. The project consists of 66 solar panels and each panel output is 285 watts. We went “live” mid to late October of 2016. There is a link on the web where we can actually see how much power has been generated on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Our electricity is provided by NYSEG (New York State Electric & Gas) and we are on a budget system so we are anxious and excited to see what the results of going solar will be at the end of one year.

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The Oxford Memorial Library is a member of the Four County Library that serves 42 libraries in Broom, Chenango, Delaware and Otsego counties. We have over 2000 registered borrowers. Our collection consists of 25,000 books plus periodicals, audio books on cd, DVDs, downloadable e-books and audio books, and electronic databases. Our circulation for 2016 was over 24,000 items. The library provides a variety of programs for patrons of all ages including two afterschool programs. Our collection of the local paper, The Oxford Review Times dates back to 1813. The library is open 54 hours a week with a staff of 5 library clerks, a youth services person and me, the director.
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Other projects we have done as part of our renovation process to help us conserve energy and be more environmental friendly was to install new windows and add 19 inches of insulation in the attic.

The Oxford Memorial Library hopes that by completing this solar project that we will be a role model to other businesses and community members in our area. The library board and staff welcome visitors and will be happy to answer questions about this solar project or any of our other renovation or expansion projects.

The Oxford Memorial Library is on the National Historic Register and great care has been taken to meet New York State Historic preservation requirements and to keep the integrity of the building.

The Oxford Memorial Library is the community center for Oxford, providing information, recreation, education and entertainment. We are a great place to meet friends and neighbors or make new friends.

Copyright 2017 by Nancy Wilcox

About the author:
I grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York. As a child I had a large walk in closet with shelves in one end where I kept all my books. I made cards for all my books so that the neighborhood kids could check them out. I started my “library career” in 1979 as a substitute for the director of a very small one person library. I then moved on to become a library clerk, then senior library clerk at the Sidney Memorial Public Library, a very progressive and fairly large library for the size of the community. I did a federal literacy grant for the Guernsey Memorial Library and worked there part time for a short time while working at the Sidney library. I accepted the position of library clerk at the Oxford Memorial Library in 1993 (still working part time at Sidney and Oxford). Then in 1995 I became library manager at the Oxford Memorial Library. I went back to school to complete my degree and upon graduation became Library Director. One of the things my husband and I enjoy is going into Head Start, Kindergarten and First Grades in our local schools and reading to the children. We always have a supply of picture books and easy readers on hand to read to the younger grandchildren (we have 5 children, 16 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren). I love to read and enjoy relaxing with a cozy mystery. Thanks to my husband I have also discovered that I enjoy certain fantasy stories like Fablehaven and Ranger’s Apprentice. My idea of getting away from it all in the summer is to sit on my deck with a glass of ice tea and a good book.