Library Ladies

Volunteers keep Keene and Keene Valley joint library open for study

Volunteer Nancy McArthur has taken on the project of inventorying and organizing the Keene Valley Library’s historic map collection in the Alpine room. (Provided photo — Martha Allen)

KEENE VALLEY — Keene’s two libraries, traditionally separate entities, have been operating as one since the beginning of this past November. Keene Public Library Director Aaron Miller, library staff, as well as the computer system and part of the book collection, have moved temporarily to the Keene Valley Library.

The Keene Public Library has sustained damage from floods since its 1904 construction on the bank of the Ausable River, including the ravages of Tropical Storm Irene, Miller said. Structural problems that necessitated the move to Keene Valley involve the library’s roof, walls, floor and foundation.

The Keene staff operates the library on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the Keene Valley staff operates the library on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The combination appears seamless, the two libraries cooperating admirably as roommates.

According to Keene Valley Library Director Karen Glass, library volunteers and library employees are working together in the same spirit of unity.

Keene Valley Library employees, as well as volunteers, boast T-shirts proudly emblazoned with the words “Library Lady,” supplied by Glass, who explains that all are valued for who they are, what they bring as individuals — support, help, laughter.

“We all work together as a team, one group. We don’t divide between volunteers and library ladies,” she said.

On a typical Tuesday morning, said Elizabeth Valovic, who humorously referred to herself as a Keene Valley Library employee in training, Keene Central School first-graders “just light up” when they see volunteer Sandy Burke.

“That’s because I have grandchildren about their age,” Burke said, smiling.

The children visit the library for story hour and to take out books, and look forward to meeting up with Burke, who knows their names and interacts with them.

There is always something to do, according to Burke: “Small projects, big projects, whatever Karen needs done. Some days I’ve finished a project and Karen graciously says “Don’t go home! Don’t go home!”

As she speaks, another volunteer, Mary Michelfelder, comes through with a small child on the way to the children’s room.

“I’m a volunteer, but I’m not volunteering today,” she says. “Today I’m here with Xyla, my granddaughter.”

Nancy McArthur has recently completed a major year-long volunteer project: organizing the maps in the newly refinished Alpine Room.

Keene Valley Library, completed in 1896, included the valued John T. Loomis collection of Adirondack Books, the Pickard collection of fishing books and an Alpine collection.

While “the Marcy Quadrangle maps are the most popular by far, relevant, because everybody’s excited about going in and climbing the summits,” McArthur says, the collection, which numbers about 450 maps, is not restricted to mountaineering.

The oldest is a 1774 French map of Lake Champlain. There are United States Defense Department maps, maps of Tibet. Some are very old and fragile, pre-World War I; some have clearly been used, folded and creased as if they had been pocketed and marked up by some previous owner.

“Since Verplank Colden, maps have changed!” McArthur said, referring to the Adirondack wilderness explorer, 1847-1920.

The map collection was originally funded by John Case, 1892-1983, a founder of the Adirondack Mountain Club. During WWII, Case was an organizer of the 10th Mountain Division, which many American climbers and skiers made an elite force.

McArthur said that she likes to volunteer, and it’s good to have work that she can take time off from when her children and grandchildren need her.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today