It all started with 600 books, borrowed from the state Department of Education. Initiated as a community service project by a high school girls’ service club, Rosendale’s first lending library opened to the public in June of 1940, housed in the office of the club’s advisor, town clerk Anna Mae Auchmoedy. The library grew in the years that followed as additional books were donated by the community, with 1,500 reading selections available to borrow by the time Auchmoedy retired in 1954. With the town clerk’s office about to be turned over to a new occupant, the Woman’s Club of Rosendale stepped in, consulting with the state Library Commission to prepare a plan to fund and house a public library. The Rosendale Library Association was established in 1958, with a charter for the Rosendale Library granted that same year. Anna Mae Auchmoedy was its first librarian.
Now 60 years later, the Rosendale Library is celebrating its anniversary with a number of special events held throughout the year. Local historian Linda Tantillo will be at the Rosendale Community Center on Wednesday, March 28 at 7 p.m., to give an illustrated talk about the history of the library and the people who founded it. Admission is free to the lecture, which will conclude with 60th anniversary birthday cake for all.
Historical archivist Tantillo has been a staff member of the Rosendale Library for 15 years, focusing on building and preserving the local history collections there and sharing the material. She previously worked with the historic collections at Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz and the Historic Huguenot Street library collection.
In April, a storytelling event with songs and crafts for children ages two to six (and their parents) will take place at the Rosendale Community Center on Saturday, April 14 from 10-11:30 a.m., and on Wednesday, April 25 from 7-9 p.m., the library will host a session for parents on how to encourage children to become readers and writers.
Looking down the road to October, the Rosendale Theatre will screen the 1957 comedic film, “The Desk Set,” on October 23 at 7 p.m. In the movie, Katharine Hepburn portrays one of a team of research librarians wary of replacement by Spencer Tracy’s new computer. The evening will include anniversary cake for the audience.
Additional special events and programs throughout the year may be found on the library’s website.
Current Rosendale Library Director Wendy Alexander has held the position since 1977. In looking back at pivotal moments in the library’s history, Alexander says she thinks the most important one, perhaps, occurred in 1987, when residents voted to convert the Rosendale Library from an “association” library to a “special district” public library.
“We were one of the first – if not the first – special district libraries in the mid-Hudson,” she says. “That meant we went from having to go to the town of Rosendale [for the operating budget] to having people directly vote on the budget. That, to me, is the best thing that’s happened in all of this time. It’s a big deal; if you’re doing a good job, the community will support the library, and that’s what we’ve seen.”
A special district library also gives its patrons a greater voice in how the library is run and the opportunity to select library trustees.
Another important milestone in the Rosendale Library’s history cited by Alexander is one that occurred in 1959, when the library joined the Mid-Hudson Library System (MHLS). Made up of nearly 70 libraries today in Ulster, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam and Columbia counties, the affiliated system allows libraries access to a greater number of shared resources. This cooperation is especially important for smaller libraries with a “footprint” that limits the size of library holdings, Alexander explains. “With Monday to Friday truck deliveries between system libraries on both sides of the Hudson River, MLHS gives library card-holders access to vast quantities of knowledge in many different formats.”
The Rosendale Library is housed in the historic All Saints Chapel, placed on both the state and national Registers of Historic Places in 1986. The 1875-76 building was awarded the designation for its architectural significance and use of unusual materials. The structure combines local limestone — originally a blue-gray color, now oxidized to a soft russet — with local rubble stone and Rosendale cement. Locally-made bricks form the window arches and the slate roof patterned with scallops and flowers is in early English Gothic Revival style.
With the help of a matching state Education Department grant and community fundraising campaign, the Rosendale Library celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008 by replacing the 132-year-old slate roof. The original design was recreated authentically using the same materials and design.
New technology came to the Rosendale Library in 1992 with public computers for word processing and graphics, with support from both the Mid-Hudson Library System and IBM, which employed many local residents. Free Internet access was established in 1997. Bar-coded books and patron FastCards expanded library services in 2001, with funding through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Rosendale Library is located at 264 Main Street in Rosendale. Library hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (845) 658-9103 or visit http://rosendalelibrary.org/.