By Dan Hust
GRAHAMSVILLE A dream more than a decade in the making was officially unveiled Sunday to a crowd that numbered in the hundreds.
Yet that was only a fraction of the thousands of volunteers to whom Daniel Pierce Library Director Joann Gallagher gave great thanks.
“This is not our library. It is your library,” she said, her remarks echoing off the handsome brick facade of the 23,500-square-foot library addition. “Preserve it, cherish it, love it.”
There’s no shortage of love in and around Grahamsville, evidenced by the two-story building behind Phil Coombe Jr., who spent more than an hour listing the generous donors who provided upwards of $8 million in funds, equipment and hard work.
Coombe was a key driving force in expanding the 113-year-old library, but he wasn’t about to take credit.
“This isn’t my story,” he told the cheering crowd. “It’s your story.”
He related how two of the county’s wealthiest residents Alan Gerry and Paul Guenther, only the latter of whom lives in the library’s service district provided $50,000 to purchase the property for the addition.
Another story detailed how local resident Anne Holt donated $160,000 to ensure an elevator in the building complete with a plaque of dedication to her and her late cat, Ashley.
Glenn Smith of Monticello donated all his engineering services, while Ramapo-Catskill Library System Executive Director Robert Hubsher doggedly pursued $750,000 in state grants.
Paul Lounsbury of Grahamsville helped Coombe obtain and install a geothermal system that will significantly lessen energy costs, while artist and writer Helena Clare Pittman created a breathtaking mural to adorn the children’s section.
Even the clock and its hourly chimes were flown in from Amish country by a local resident to eliminate the $500 shipping cost.
“There isn’t a dime owed for what you see,” Coombe proudly related. “It’s just amazing how many decent people there are.”
Other speakers stood in awe.
“It really took a community to have this library, and it should really be the center of the community,” Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther observed.
“A library is the heart and soul of a community,” agreed NYS Senator John Bonacic, noting how inspiring Coombe was in guiding it along. “No one worked harder and did the herculean things to make this library a reality.”
“If the state and federal governments could work like this,” quipped County Legislator Leni Binder, “we’d have no more problems!”
The doors were soon thrown open to an audience eager to see the result of a community’s pride and sacrifice.
The adults and kids climbing up the spiral staircase, enjoying refreshments on the bluestone patio and marvelling at the chandeliered reading room were signs that this library and the Time and the Valleys Museum that will soon accompany it will indeed remain the center of Town of Neversink life.
“The health of a community is measured by its library,” affirmed Hubsher to the crowd. “You are a very healthy community.”
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But that’s not the end of the story.
The Time and the Valleys Museum will have its own opening this Wednesday, June 22 at 4:30 p.m. The Museum will be open to the public for free until 6 p.m. that evening.
This brand new facility includes three floors of exhibitions on local history and the Rondout and Neversink watershed area, a local history research center and museum shop carrying local history books, crafts by local artisans, toys and unique gifts.
And the Daniel Pierce Library continues to need volunteers and donors, especially those who can contribute to as-yet-uninstalled entryway overhangs, outside lighting, and a future museum village and endowment fund.
The original circa-1900 library building will soon be restored, as well, and a new structure will link it to the addition.
For more info, call the library at 985-7233 or visit www.danielpiercelibrary.org.