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Historical Highlights

A Library for
the Town of Sand Lake

With the moving of the Sand Lake Town Library to new and enlarged quarters in the newly acquired Municipal Building, it seems timely to review the Library history.

First, it is a surprise to discover that the history of a Town Library predates the Town itself. In 1808, the "Sand Lake Library Society" was organized. At that time, Thomas Thompson called together a group of citizens who lived in the Sand Lake area (read: Averill Park) to meet at his home to discuss the establishment of a library. Ten men responded to the call and, after a discussion, agreed to each contribute $10 to the cause. With this $100 the first library society in Sand Lake and the second library in Rensselaer County was established.

The first directors were William Van Tress as chairman, Uriah M Gregory, Stephen Gregory (the Gregory House), Aretus Lyman (a local mill owner), Joel Bristol and Nathan Crandall. Thomas Thompson, in whose home the meeting was held, was a brother of Calvin Thompson, who became the first Supervisor of the Town of Sand Lake in 1813.

How long this library operated is lost in time, and what other efforts transpired between that time and the 1950s is not known. To obtain information on the many efforts to establish a library, a number of telephone calls have been made to search people's memories. The following is a result of that search. Perhaps you could add or correct some of the information obtained.

Sometime in the early 1950s, Mrs. Beyrl Moul worked hard to establish a library in the Methodist Church in West Sand Lake. It started as a bible school project but soon included adult material and was opened to the public.

Some time later, Mrs. Paula Dunn headed a group to form a Town Library. Fund-raising events such as card parties and teas were held. As a result of this effort, a Town Library Demonstration Project, sponsored by the State, was held at the High School during the summer of 1962. School librarian Ms. Audna Clum agreed to staff the project for the summer.

A library committee petitioned the Sand Lake Town Board to allocate funds for the establishment of a Town Library. A referendum was placed before the people of the town two successive years; each time the proposal was voted down. The supporters of the library proposition were discouraged, and the effort was temporarily abandoned.

From 1964-75, St. Henry's School Library was offered as a community library. Many volunteers offered their time and effort to staff the desk and cataloged books. It was soon affiliated with the then-Upper Hudson Library Federation, thus offering a better selection of material. Mrs. Mary O'Donnell, representing the community library committee of St. Henry's School, reported 800-1000 books were borrowed by school children and 4385 books were borrowed by the public. The library ended with the closing of the school in 1975. Mary O'Donnell later became librarian of Algonquin Middle School.

Early in 1986, the Town Board appointed a committee to investigate the possibility of establishing a Town Library. By September of the same year, the committee presented their report. The objectives of the proposed library, a tentative budget and many letters of support resulted in the Town Board officially approving the establishment of a library and appropriating $45,000 in support. Other financial support came from many contributors, including $4,000 from the Kiwanis. Sharon Bonk, Meg Distell, Ann Evancoe, Charles Graber, Bob Katz, Stuart Lipschutz and Barbara Martinage were appointed as trustees, working with Elizabeth Heller as liaison to the Town Board.

The Library received a provisional charter from the New York State Board of Regents on April 24, 1987. The new Library rented a space in 43 Mall and opened its door on August 15, 1987, with a formal dedication on October 28. Nola Reis (director) and Ruth Bordt were the first paid staff. Official full approval by the Town Board came at a meeting on December 10, 1987.

The Library started with books contributed by people, mostly from cellars, attics etc. As the Howe Branch of the Troy Public library had recently closed, 2700 books were purchased from them at $1/book. Some 620 volumes were purchased new and 1157 were donated. At first it was not a very large collection, but it grew gradually to what we have today.

In 1989, Maria Lynam and Marilyn Oestreich founded the Friends of the Library. This organization is still active, generating additional support for the library.

The Library received its absolute charter from the Board of Regents on June 26, 1992. But a year earlier, it was evident that the Library would soon outgrow its 1500 square foot space at the 43 Mall. A long-range planning committee was appointed to study expansion options. One option was the building a new separate library building. To find a permanent solution to the space problem, the committee worked with the Town Board, who at that time was studying the possibility of building a new town hall. A plan to include the Town Library in a new municipal building was worked out. In 1996, a referendum to build a municipal building to house town offices and include a library was presented to and passed by the voters.

Conditions soon changed, a new administration was elected and the vacant Capital Mutual Insurance Company building became available. A study was made to determine the practicality of converting that building to Town Offices. After much study and discussion, the Town Board passed a resolution to purchase the building and convert it into Town Offices, including an enlarged space for the Town Library. A contract for the renovations was let, work started, and the building was ready for occupancy in June 1999.

On June 19, 1999, a great number of volunteers began the week-long process of moving books, shelving and equipment to the new location. On June 28, the Library reopened its doors in the new and improved location. The Library still awaits additional shelving (being donated by Siena College) and furnishings. When completed, a local history display of books and material from the Historical Society's collection will be a feature.

At the present time [Fall 1999] 10 staff people (paid) and several volunteers are active in operation of the Library. The new facilities are a great improvement over the 43 Mall location. Town citizens can be well proud of our Sand Lake Town Library. We've come a long way!!!

The Municipal Building was dedicated on August 21, 1999. The Town Library rededication will be in the fall after the additional shelving and furnishings are in place.

[Note: Your SLHS Webmaster was privileged to be a small part of the beginnings of the Sand Lake Town Library. Working with the newly formed Board of Trustees, I put together a "potential library user" survey form that was distributed throughout the Town. The form itself along with the tallying of results and reporting on same constituted a Seminar project for my Master of Library Science degree as well as helping the new Board to plan library service to the community. C Andrew Mace]. C from the Fall 1999 issue of Historical Highlights

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Created 3/25/2000; last revised November 16, 2022 -- asm. © 2002-2023 Sand Lake Historical Society; all rights reserved.