The “Growing Place” is the perfect name for the New Woodstock Free Library. Chartered on June 16, 1939 by New York State, the library has been in continuous community service. As the community grew, so did the library. With this growth came a need for volunteers. The community has not let the library down. Volunteers have manned the library since its inception. The current librarian, Norm Parry, called the volunteers the “heart and soul” of the library.
The library’s first home was the New Woodstock high school (currently owned by Robert and Sara Chevako). The library was given permission to use a room on the first floor of the school if the library was made available to students too. The first year’s budget was a bit shaky. They raised $100 from membership dues, got $100 from the state to buy books, and the Town Board gave $50. Rosa Collins was the first librarian, and continued in that position from 1939-1970. Jeannette Tyler started volunteering in the old school building. She has hammered, scraped, painted, cleaned and sat at the desk from 1939-1979, 40 years of service to her community!!
Next, the library moved into the Red and White grocery store (currently housing Ridgeway and Conger Investments). The next home was the little building (currently owned by Roger and Judy Davenport). The librarians called it the “Ice House” because it was so cold and damp. In the 1960’s the library was moved into the former telephone building (currently owned by Michael Casler). This was the library’s home until 1996. Paulina Slocum was the librarian from 1970-1979.
As the community grew, so did the need for a larger facility. Frances Fuggle was the librarian from 1979-1994. The tiny building housed 9,000 books in 1979 and had a circulation of 17,000. By 1994 the number of books had grown to 12,000, and the circulation had increased steadily to 20,000. There were numerous programs at the library even though it was only 900 square feet occupying 2 floors. The building was not handicapped accessible and the tiny bathroom was the only place for storage. It was often difficult for patrons to move around among the shelves. Norm joked that it was a “single file” library. There was always talk about having a larger facility, but finally the discussion became serious. The possibility of a new building was made even more feasible because Mrs. Fuggle had not accepted any salary during her tenure as librarian. Those funds, along with tax revenues approved by voters, helped to make the plan a reality!
After an exhaustive search, including members of the local community, the board was very pleased to choose Norm Parry. He became the first library director with a Master’s degree in library science from Syracuse University. He began his duties May 16, 1994. With the arrival of Norm, it was evident that the New Woodstock Free Library would continue as a “small town” library, but with a larger view of the world. Mr. Parry stated, “I don’t believe in change for change’s sake, I do believe in growth, especially in services for the community. If everyone can continue to grow through what we offer them, the library will have satisfied its mission.”
The Library Board of Trustees hired an architect (Dick Rust), who drew up building plans. Eventually a piece of land at the corner of Railroad Street and Route 80 (near the New Woodstock Historical Society Depot) was purchased. As the Board discussed the various plans that had been drawn up, the members of the Federated Church of New Woodstock were struggling with what to do with 2 churches. Tim King, president of the church’s board of trustees stated, “It doesn’t make sense to maintain 2 buildings. We could think of no suitable use for it that would match the desires of the congregation. It was very unlikely that we could put it up for sale through a real estate broker.”
The proposed library, however, had been the subject of controversy in the hamlet, both for its location (the green space on the main street), and the proposed design of the building. Therefore, the Library Board was relieved and grateful to learn that the Methodist Church building was going to be sold. “I think the decision was easier for the congregation since the building was going to be the new home of the library not just sold,” stated Barbara Cook, board president.
The official transfer of the property took place in September 1994. Mike Palmer, Library Board of Trustees President said, “It’s final, we own the building!” Fred Palmer donated his legal services over the past year to assure clear title and to complete complicated procedural steps necessary to close the deal. Tim King, the president of the board of trustees of the New Woodstock Federated Church, said, “The occupation of the church building by the library was the one and only acceptable use I can imagine…It was a very generous and unselfish move on the part of the congregation.”
The library board showed every indication of being thoughtful, too, in their restoration and renovation of the church building. The board chose Bob Kent, the architect and partner in Teitch and Kent, who was a former member of the community and library board member.
Michael Palmer, President of the Library Board, served as the clerk of the works, and John Foley, a local contractor, and community member was chosen as the builder/contractor.
Dr. Kyle Doan, a member of the library board and community member, chaired the community fundraising committee. With generous financial support from the community, NY State Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, and Assemblyman William Magee, the funds, for the renovation of the church building into a library, came in.
The new facility would have 3,990 square feet of space. The historical integrity was of utmost importance, while still updating the building to modern standards. The choir loft became an electronics and OPAC terminal workstation. The sanctuary, with its hard wood floors, 18-foot ceilings, 12-foot stained-glass windows and unique plaster tracery became the adult stacks area. With minor structural modifications the kitchen and meeting room were reworked into the children and program rooms. The community/reception room was dedicated to Frances Fuggle. There were even handicapped accessible bathrooms installed!
Emptying the shelves in the old building, Marilyn Fais, Frank Palmer, Bill Luther
The move across Route 13 might seem like an easy task, but think of moving 12,000+ books. It takes a lot of coordination and teamwork. Norm had a plan. Pure muscle was not enough. Barbara Church was in charge of getting the shelving cleaned and refurbished. Roger Davenport’s job was to make sure that all of the new shelving was assembled and ready to be occupied. It was important to have the books put into the new building in a systematic way. Beth Beardsley was in charge of that aspect of the plan. Close to 100 volunteers came out on June 29 to assist in the move. At noon everyone took time out to enjoy a delicious old-fashioned picnic lunch organized by Janice Hayes. The day was a smashing success and it didn’t rain. Marilyn Fais said, “I think Janice Hayes had something to do with that, as she was having a little chat with God while she was helping to set up for the picnic.” By mid-afternoon many of the bookshelves were already filled. The books were standing tall and proud, just like the New Woodstock volunteers in their new library. On July 8, 1996 the new home of the New Woodstock Free Library opened for business.
The new “Growing Place” was dedicated on October 4, 1996 with a formal evening reception hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Kyle Doan. Over 100 members of the extended community attended! Many of the individuals that were instrumental in the transformation of the Methodist Church into the New Woodstock Free Library were also present. There were delicious hors d’oeuvres, desserts from Johnny Appleseed Farms, and wine from MacKinnon’s Liquor. Delightful musical entertainment was provided by a string quartet.
The Grand Opening for the general public, on Saturday, October 5, was also well attended, with over 300 people passing through the new library.
The ribbon was cut by John Foley, contractor, Mike Palmer, President of the Library Board, and Bob Kent, architect. Duane Conley enhanced the ribbon cutting ceremony on the bagpipes. A special commemorative postal stamp acknowledged the day.
In October the library was honored with a new stained glass window by William and Marilyn Fais.
Children have always been a huge part of the “Growing Place”. So, it wasn’t that surprising to everyone when the children’s area quickly outgrew its home. Story hour has been provided at the New Woodstock Free Library since the 1970’s. Children from New Woodstock and surrounding communities come here because of the quality and diversity of the children’s programs. Although story hour started in the upstairs of the little green building across the street, that did not limit the number of participants. Frequently there would be 20 little boys and girls gathered around the reader, listening intently, enjoying a creative arts and crafts project, and having snacks. The children participated in the Old Home Days parades too.
They really made the library a lively place to be.
When the library moved into larger quarters, the story hours continued.
They were as popular with the local children as well as with children from Cazenovia and surrounding communities.
Soon it became obvious that the “Growing Place” was in need of more space. With half of the library’s circulation, children’s books, it was obvious that change was in order. How to expand, where to expand to, and where to get the funding were the questions that needed to be answered. There was a house next door to the library that was owned by Robert Conway. He had moved out and was trying to sell the property. When it did not sell, the library proposed buying the house and tearing it down. The property was purchased for $9,000 in July 2001. Demolition took place in October 2002. Then the land could be used for the library expansion. The construction’s estimated cost was $145,000. The library was about $20,000 short of the goal. State Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, R-Fabius, and Assemblyman William Magee, D-Nelson, each secured $50,000 in state money. The Central New York Community Foundation gave $15,000 and an additional $10,000 came from other grants and donations.
The new children’s facility has 1500 square feet addition; it employs an innovative space use concept. Everything in the space is moveable. There is soft shape seating and all of the seating is modular. The addition also has a storage area and a kitchenette. A reception was held on July 27, 2004. “We started this project 2 years ago and I would just like to thank everyone for sticking in there and making this project a worthwhile endeavor,” Ed Roickle, Library board president stated. Norm Parry asked the children if they liked presents. Of course they all said YES! He said, “Spread your arms wide, it’s a big present. All of this stuff in this room is your present. I want you to use the books, enjoy the place and read!” There is no doubt that the kids are following Norm’s instructions.
In 2010,the small hamlet of New Woodstock pulled together to construct a new, state-of-the-art playground and softball field. On June 12th, more than 30 volunteers turned out on a wet, sticky morning to help turn a dream into reality for the children of New Woodstock.
In 2011,the library decided it was time to change its carbon footprint and received an energy audit initiated through the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board. NYSERDA recommended renovating and refitting with new / added insulation, changing to energy efficient fixtures and other heat-saving ideas. As part of the resulting grant, insulation was added or replaced, new curtains were installed in the main stacks, and old lights were replaced with LED bulbs.These changes as well as others continued to be implemented well into 2014.
In October 2013 the New Woodstock Free Library installed a historical marker designating it as a historic building. This was accomplished because of a grant provided by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, thanks to the dedication and hard work the New Woodstock Regional Historical Society and many others.
The New Woodstock Historical Society offers more information about our beloved hamlet.