Consider two women: Julia Butterfield and Alice Curtis Desmond. Their values shape our community. Both of these accomplished women gained comfortable fortunes and bequeathed funds to bring about their vision of an improved life for all in Philipstown — Butterfield in 1913, and Desmond in 1990 — and that vision for both included a library.
Butterfield left funds to start a library and a hospital in Cold Spring. Desmond, while married to her second husband, Hamilton Fish, gave funds to open a library in Garrison in 1980, and at her death in 1990 left additional financial support.
Thanks to these two women, Philipstown enjoys two thriving, busy libraries. Any resident can use both libraries with one card. Their operating hours are coordinated so that when one opens late the other opens early. The libraries cooperate on projects — most recently on a series of Welcome Newcomers receptions and an online guide to community resources at Philipstown.org. The children’s rooms of both libraries welcome families. Cardholders for both libraries have access to books and resources from all over the state through in the Mid-Hudson Library System.
Thanks to community demand, both libraries long ago outgrew their origins as quiet reading rooms and offer internet access, digital collections, a wide array of technology and professional staff. They also outgrew their original funding, and, along with most libraries in New York, have turned directly to taxpayers to support their expanded services and hours.
The Desmond-Fish Public Library in Garrison survived for 34 years without asking for taxpayer funding. Special projects like an elevator, a children’s room and a technology lab were achieved with private gifts and state grants. A combination of board fundraising and endowment income supported our growth — until it didn’t.
In order to provide the technology and other services that our patrons rely on, stay open seven days a week, and provide more than 600 programs a year, we need to ask our taxpayers for a sustainable and reliable level of support. The $300,000 that we are requesting represents only 45 percent of our budget, compared to an 80 percent level of public support for most libraries in New York state. Since residents of the Garrison school district constitute the vast majority of our cardholders, we are asking them for support.
Please vote on Tuesday, May 21, at the Garrison School; the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. And please visit both of Philipstown’s wonderful libraries, reflecting the vision of two remarkable women.
Anita Prentice, Garrison
Prentice is president of the Desmond-Fish board.
We are writing in support of the Desmond-Fish Public Library and its upcoming referendum.
We have been Garrison residents for more than 19 years, and for us the library is the heart of the community. It isn’t just a place to check out a book; it’s a place that welcomes everyone from children to seniors, and has a fabulous tech center, programs and interest groups and social activities. The staff is so helpful and kind, and nearly every time we go to the library, we run into a friend or neighbor.
We are happy to pay our share to support the library needs. It’s a small price to pay for what the library provides for everyone in Garrison.
Sheilah and Bert Rechtschaffer, Garrison
We moved to Garrison 13 years ago and our firstborn still exhibits the benefits she received at our Desmond-Fish Library. Her sibling also acquired interests and skills that continue to this day. In fact, I’m not sure that our daughter or our son would have flourished as they have without the experiences they gained at the library. It became an extension of their home and classrooms, a place of exploration, a place where the curriculum was of their choosing.
Years ago, while our son was busy designing the latest Thomas the Train track at the library with his friends, lively debates erupted as to layout and engine ownership. With their adult advisers close at hand, these disputes were most often settled amicably after a fair division of assets. Today, he waits his turn to use the virtual-reality goggles.
Social skills were developed accordingly and now our son is the elected representative of his class. Go figure. Compromise, generosity, listening skills: all were tested and retested.
Years ago, when the first 3-D printer arrived at the library, our daughter was one of a small team that assembled and operated it. The new Innovation and Learning Center is a product of the community’s investment and first foray into accessible technology at the library. I believe her love of science is directly related to her having had the chance to experience such subject matter firsthand.
We arrived at a time when Carol Donick led the team. No doubt Carol laid the groundwork for many of the programs. Since her departure, Jen McCreery has taken our library into the future. With the help of her teammates, it continues to evolve. The local, educational, informative, cultural, literary, social, environmental and fun events are all by-products of Jen’s leadership and her innovative staff.
If nothing else comes from this referendum, I, for one, am profoundly grateful to all who have supported our library and, whether they realize it or not, who contributed to the extraordinary development of our children.
Seth Dinitz, Garrison