The Story of New Woodstock Free Library
Learn about the history and the people
behind our library.
Chartered on June 16, 1939 by New York State, the Library has been in continuous community service for more than 80 years. The “Growing Place” is the perfect name for the New Woodstock Free Library as the Library has undergone significant change and growth throughout its history.
The library’s first home was the New Woodstock High School. 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. Rosa Collins was the first librarian, and continued in that position from 1939-1970.
The Library made a series of moves throughout the years, first into the former Red and White grocery store, then the little building librarians called the “Ice House” because it was so cold and damp. In the 1960s, the library moved into the former telephone building. This was the library’s home until 1996. Paulina Slocum was the second librarian from 1970-1979.
As the community grew, so did the need for a larger facility. Frances Fuggle was the third librarian from 1979-1994. The tiny Library 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. 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. There was always talk about having a larger facility, but finally the discussion became serious.
Mrs. Fuggle retired in 1994 after 14 years as Director, and the search began for a replacement. After an exhaustive search, the Board of Trustees was very pleased to choose Norm Parry as the fourth Director. 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. “I don’t believe in change for change’s sake,” Norm said, “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 to draw 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 two 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 would be for sale.
The official transfer of the property took place in September 1994. The restoration and renovation of the church building would follow. With generous financial support from the community, New York State Senator Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, and Assemblyman William Magee, the funds came in for the renovation of the church building into a library.
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 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 a children’s area and a Program Room, which was dedicated to Frances Fuggle.
The next task was to transfer 12,000+ books from the old Library to the new. Nearly 100 volunteers came out on June 29, 1996 to assist in the move. At noon everyone took time out to enjoy a delicious old-fashioned picnic lunch. 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 building was dedicated on October 4, 1996 with a formal evening reception. The Grand Opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, October 5, was well attended with over 300 people passing through the new library.
Children have always been a huge part of the “Growing Place,” so it wasn’t surprising when the children’s area quickly outgrew its home. Story hour has been provided at the New Woodstock Free Library since the 1970s. Children from New Woodstock and surrounding communities came because of the quality and diversity of the children’s programs. Soon it became obvious that the Library was in need of more space. With half of the library’s circulation being children’s books, it was obvious that change was in order.
Property adjacent to the library was purchased in July 2001. Demolition of the building on that property took place in October 2002. Then the land could be used for the library expansion. The new children’s facility measured 1500 square feet and the addition also has a storage area and a kitchenette. A reception was held on July 27, 2004.
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. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority 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 of the New Woodstock Regional Historical Society and many others.
Norm Parry retired in June 2020 after 24 years of service to the Library; he passed away in September 2023. In October 2020, the Library Board of Trustees hired Heather Elia as the fifth Library Director. Upon accepting the position, Heather said, “I’m excited about this opportunity because our library is the jewel of New Woodstock and I’d like to be part of leading it through its next phase of growth, as a way of giving back to the community in which I’ve made a life.” Heather stepped down as Director in March 2022. Clara Lantz became the Assistant Director in April 2022, and as of April 2023 is the General Manager.