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It Takes A Village… and then some


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Almost four years after a fire gutted the building and with it, the book collection, our local Phoenicia Library celebrated its grand re-opening yesterday, Saturday January 17. In these days of the Internet and eBooks, the purpose of a public library as a bricks-and-mortar center for book-lending may seem somewhat antiquated, but libraries have the power to provide continued community resources in so many ways, beyond this perfectly noble initial ideal. At the Phoenicia Library, for example, which managed to find temporary shelter during the interim years elsewhere in the village, a retired teacher comes in weekly to help kids with math homework; another retired teachers comes in by appointment to provide literacy help for students and adults alike; and there is a Saturday crafts class for children and a ukelele session for all ages. Meantime, the provision of free Internet access serves as a boon to those in a rural area like ours where many roads lack broadband, and where seniors and others often need help navigating the net.

Robert Burke Warren performs at the Grand Re-opening.

Robert Burke Warren performs at the Grand Re-opening.

With its return to Main Street, increasing by around 70% to 3200 square foot, the renovated building now offers a dedicated reading room, has re-established the Angling Collection that was sadly destroyed in the fire, has received a license to show movies, and has given rise to a Book Club – and as importantly as anything, is environmentally sound. Add in the fact that you can order any book through the Mid-Hudson Library catalogue and pick it up from this and other libraries within days, that eBooks and DVDs are increasingly becoming part of all public libraries’ free lending, and that libraries serve as a community meeting space and all-round resource center, and you can understand how glad all over we are here in our area to be back on Main Street.

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Rebuilding the Library took time, energy and commitment. Insurance met only part of the costs and fund-raising efforts were extensive. It was back in July 2013 that our very part-time band the Catskill 45s played a memorable benefit at the Byrdcliffe Barn in Woodstock, and the occasion of my 50th birthday last April when it was hoped that the Bingo-Bourbon-Barbeque fundraiser at the Peekamoose Restaurant would provide the last of the necessary resources. Late in the day, the good will of the local public, generous with their funds even though most who use the library hardly qualify as wealthy, was matched by a most generous and welcome private donation. That all this could go on, amicably (but for a brief legal spat with the neighbors about an addition to the library’s rear end) and enthusiastically, while the Woodstock Library community has split into warring factions over a well-intended Annex, speaks volume for the unique community around Phoenicia. I’m proud to be a part of it, and happy to have re-donated a collection of my own books for public perusal. Welcome back.

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