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A 50 Year Love Affair with the Nyack Library

“Ray Edwards takes on a load of books at Riverstrip, Stephen Leeman’s home in Upper Nyack, where Bill Sywetz is on hand to provide aid and hilarity. The books eventually arrived safely at the Nyack Library where they will go on sale with thousands of others.” Source: The County Citizen, July 13, 1961 (via Nyack Library)


by Barbara Puff

More than half a century ago, a small group of community members formed The Friends of the Nyack Library, dedicated to finding creative and innovative ways to support their local library. In October they will be hosting their annual book sale on the lower level of the library. If you would like to get involved they are always seeking new members, old books you might not need and whatever time you have available to serve. In volunteering your intelligence, skill and most significantly, love for books and concern for the community, you are ensuring our library will maintain its vital role as a bastion of literacy for current and future patrons.

Back in 1961 The Friends of the Nyack Library had their first book sale, collecting thousands of volumes from residents of Nyack, Tappan, Stony Point and Monsey. In a photo from an issue of The County Citizen on July 13th, 1961, one patron from Upper Nyack presumably delivered his books to the library by kayak. Hopefully they were dry by the time of their arrival. Paperbacks were five cents, hardcovers a hefty 25 to 75 cents. Proceeds of the sale were given to the library, a tradition continuing to this day.

By 1969 their goals had grown considerably: special programs for adult interest, story telling for children, film programs for the community and a traveling story teller. Plans to compile a picture file, pamphlet file, local history file and college catalog file were made. Delivery of books to shut-ins, work hours in the library, shelf reading, help with inventory, the creation of a children’s room, continuation of book sales, an art exhibit and chamber music concert were a few things they achieved in a very short time.

Dues were two dollars in 1970. For such fees one could attend the Adult Interest Series of talks by local artists. Collectively such dues served the library through the purchase of 200 dollars of art books, 25 dollars of books on the topic of drugs, children’s film strips, 1,000 shopping bags for patrons and mailings of newsletters. In 1971 The Friends of the Nyack Library purchased a Master Lens for readers with impaired vision, making Large Print Books from ordinary reading material for readers needing such services.

The 70’s saw the Visual Art Series and Music Series, the restoration of the Buttermilk Painting by Hill, closing with a Centennial Ball, a costumed event hosted by a local resident with extensive Broadway credits. By this time paperbacks at the annual sale had risen to 15 cents and hardcovers were three for a dollar.

The 80’s featured continued book sales to raise money for the library, a film series and the local book and author luncheons. Lectures in the 90’s covered the economy and immigration trends followed by workshops on crafts, poetry and photography. In 1994 a roll top desk for the library and laser printer for the newsletter were purchased. Donations for the new local history room began. The following year display cases, storage units and additional funds to furnish the Isabelle Savelle Local History Room were collected. 1996 saw the restoration of the Orange and Rockland Map of 1859 and the 1873 Nyack Map.

2002 saw the restoration of the 1859 Corey/Bachman Map and the 1900 Christie Map along with the purchase of a digital camera for the library and sale of tote bags and tee shirts. The book sale continued to provide revenue for the library. In 2006 Nyack in Black and White was published, a bike rack and scanner was purchased, additional art was restored and the Children’s Summer Reading Program was instituted.

Several years ago The Friends of the Nyack Library purchased a digital microfilm reader, which has been used to digitize 19th and 20th century documents for preservation. These are available online at the Hudson River Valley Heritage Website, providing access to historical papers for any patron needing such information.

If you’re currently looking for used books at reasonable prices , look for The Book Nook on the lower level at the back of the computer room where shelves are stocked with several hundred volumes for purchase all year round.

The annual fall book sale is Saturday, Oct 6 from 10a until 4p and Sunday, Oct 7 from 12n to 4p. If you’d like to volunteer at the sale or throughout the year, contact Sharon Aperto at the Reference Desk on the second floor of the Nyack Library. Who knows, you might be as lucky as I was several years ago, when I found a first edition of Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill worth considerably more than the dollar I paid for it. With friends like that how can you go wrong?

Raised in the Midwest, Barbara Puff is a writer who now lives in South Nyack, NY. 

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