By Rob Potter
CALLICOON September 11, 2001 Dozens of current and former library trustees, staff members, volunteers, patrons and area residents gathered Sunday at the Delaware Youth Center to mark the 50th anniversary of the Delaware Free Library.
(Since July 1, 2000, the library has officially been known as the Delaware Free branch of the Western Sullivan Public Library.)
Accompanied by the music of Tanya Cohen and her student, Lauren Brinkerhoff, of The Music Studio, the 40 people on hand enjoyed light refreshments as they reminisced about the library.
Many also took a moment to view the items set up on a small table. Those items included two of the first childrens books at the Delaware Free Library, Mike The Mailman and Cinder, as well as a copy of the minutes from the first board of trustees meeting and the first accession record.
During the formal program, several current or former staff members and trustees spoke of how the work of so many and the support of the community helped the library reach the half-century milestone.
When it first opened its doors on July 7, 1951, the Delaware Free Library had 600 books and 60 registered patrons. Currently, the librarys shelves hold 20,000 books and magazines, and its 2,000 patrons can access millions of books through the Ramapo-Catskill Library System.
Since 1971, the library has been housed in the former United National Bank of Callicoon. The building is more commonly known among locals as the 1913 building at the end of Main Street in the Delaware River hamlet.
Eva Boyle, a former Delaware Free board of trustees secretary who has given the library 37 years of volunteer service, noted the efforts of several people who helped the library in its early days. Among those she mentioned by name were attorneys Irving Bershader and Robert A. Intemann, whom she noted helped the library with legal matters on a pro bono basis.
Boyle also recalled that the finances were dreadful. But she and other library trustees and volunteers did what they could to improve the finances.
We held all kinds of fundraisers, Boyle said. We had raffles and bake sales and went to the firehouse on Election Day to collect donations from people after they voted. We were very grateful for any and all donations.
Boyle noted that Shirley Keesler was hired as a library clerk in 1971, a position that paid $2 per hour.
She was worth her weight in gold then and still is today, Boyle said of Keesler, who still serves the Delaware Free Branch as its clerk.
Town of Delaware Historian Mary Curtis told the crowd of how the library has grown over the decades. She noted that the local Womens Literary Society first proposed the library 50 years ago at a public meeting at the Delaware Valley School auditorium, as at that time the closest library was the Ethelbert B. Crawford Library in Monticello.
Its fitting that we pay tribute to these early volunteers, Curtis said. What they did at the meeting was really remarkable.
Among others who spoke were Western Sullivan Public Library Board of Trustees President Barbara Harder, interim director Marion Dumond, 22-year associate librarian Vera Tobin and Robert Hubsher, who is the director of the Ramapo-Catskill Library System.
A local library means many things to many people, Hubsher said. May the next 50 years for this library be as great as the first 50.
Dozens of people who contributed to the success of the past five decades were noted in the days program. They included longtime volunteers Pearl Bjorklund, Emaline Miller, Evelyna Traynor, Naomi Bennedum, Alice Ohls, Anne Williams, Norma Rutherford, Elise Van Iderstine, Jessica Snyder, Alice Schlichting, Edith Annable, Joan Henke, Gladys Bergner and Barbara Fullerton.
Boyle, Keesler, Lynn Nalven and Tobin were among those named in the printed programs appreciation list. Others on that list were Martha McGrath (first professional librarian, volunteer), Mary White (former Board of Trustees President and Library Director), Jane Margaret Powers (former Board President and Director), Annemarie Scheutz (initiated library automation system) and Keith Robisch (initiated library merger, former Board President).
At the end of the program, two plaques were unveiled. One plaque honors the founders of the library and the other honors the first Delaware Free Library Board of Trustees; both plaques will hang in the library for all patrons to see.
Those listed by name on the founders plaque are Florence Curtis, Ruth A. Dorrer, Adelaide Nudorf, Helen Roemer, Dorothy Rumble, Lillian Schweinfest, Nellie Stabbert, Florence Tobin, Vera Tobin and Evelyna Traynor. Noted with special appreciation is Pauline Kautz, who donated the 1913 building to house the library in December 1970.
The trustees named on the second plaque are Irving Bershader (President), Gladys Bergner (Vice President), Norma Stengel (Secretary), Edith Helen Craig (Treasurer), Robert A. Intemann, Charles E. Lewis, Martha McGrath, Edmund T. Rumble and Fred Stabbert, Sr.
Just before the program started, Harder looked around at all of the people who had helped the Delaware Free Branch mark its 50th anniversary.
Were still babies at the Western Sullivan Public Library, Harder said. We have our goals, but it takes a lot of hard work and working together. Who knows maybe in 50 years there will be a celebration like this for the Western Sullivan Public Library.