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The Friends of Middletown Thrall Library

The First Decade 1989 - 1999

The prestigious Daniel W. Casey Advocacy Award is given each year by the Empire State Roundtable of the New York Library Association to an individual or organization who have volunteered their efforts for outstanding work in developing awareness for and support of their library.

The 1998 Award was presented to Friends of Middletown Thrall Library for the group's extensive lobbying which resulted in a new library as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant, an on-site used bookstore which provides funds for the purchase of books and equipment for the library, and initiated the recognition of the good work done by Friends groups throughout the State by petitioning the NYS Legislature to proclaim an annual Friends of the Library Week each April.

Friends of Middletown Thrall Library has created a long and remarkable record of achievement since its founding in 1989. Initially, the group was instrumental in persuading officials of the need for a new library facility, and to locate that facility in the historic and centrally-located Erie Station. The new Middletown Thrall Library immediately became the cornerstone of the Downtown Middletown Renaissance.

Since the opening of the new library, the Friends group has supported the library through significant financial contributions and contributions of goods and services, enabling the library to provide additional and expanded educational, civic, cultural, and business services to the community at large. Working with local, state and federal officials, the Friends has secured legislative support for the library and the community.

The organization sponsors a regular and extensive series of educational, cultural, and community programs for both children and adults. Concerts, lectures, and discussions are just some of the popular programs open to the public free of charge.

During its first decade Friends has contributed more than $100,000 in support of the library. Funds have been used to purchase computers and other information technology, furniture, equipment, books, and needed supplies. A very select listing includes: 5 computers, 2 CD-ROM drives, a 10-speaker sound system, a video projector, 2 VCRs, microphones, 2 television sets, overhead projector, refrigerator, microwave oven, coffee urns, 3 stage platforms, and a speaker's podium.

In 1998 the Friends designated a special $10,000 donation to be used exclusively for expensive reference books and materials needed by the library to meet the needs of an ever-growing number of library users. Among the significant materials purchased were: the 34-volume Dictionary of Art, the 8-volume International Encyclopedia of Dance, The Riverside Shakespeare, Encyclopedia of Earth & Physical Sciences, The Great Migration Begins, and a Chronology of European History. For the Summitfield and David Moore Heights branches, where student use is particularly high, the donation allowed for the purchase of Milestones of Science & Technology, The Complete Dinosaur Dictionary, Encyclopedia of Mammals, The Hispanic American Almanac, and the complete World Book Encyclopedia in print and CD-ROM formats.

The Friends Used Bookstore is a local landmark and favorite gathering place for booklovers throughout the region. Located in the historic Railway Express building adjacent to the library, the bookstore is staffed by a team of dedicated volunteers and stocked with donated books. It is the primary fundraising endeavor of Friends and it is a magnet for drawing shoppers into Downtown Middletown.

During its first decade the Friends group sponsored nearly 100 events in its series of educational, cultural, and community programs. Sometimes lighthearted and meant for pure enjoyment, sometimes addressing the most serious issues of the day, the Friends programs are always open to the public free of charge. Among the many notable programs was "Whither the Great Divide: A Discussion of Race and Economics." A panel of community of business, and education leaders discussed the issue from both a local and a national perspective. An overflow audience enthusiastically participated and an editorial in The Times Herald Record stated:

"Cheers... To the Middletown-based Friends of Thrall Library for helping bridge the gulf between the races. The group assembled a panel of experts... which included Middletown's first black alderman, Mulez Georges, Middletown NAACP president Bettie Luenzmann, and SUNY New Paltz professor Dr. A. J. Williams-Myers, to measure racism around the region and across the country. Panelists discussed the danger of hate groups, the politics of reverse discrimination and lamented the state of education for minorities. The issues are as important as they are controversial. The frank talk will help keep them on the table."

Educational programs, for both adults and children, have been numerous. A special program on the whys, whats and hows of cyberspace and the Internet drew a large audience and requests for similar programs. Special programs for children's book authors and critics, educational activities, and fun and games.

Among the most popular programs are those involving the performing arts. The internationally-acclaimed Jack Aranson and Claudia Cummings, Orange County residents, delighted the audience with their special staging of My Fair Lady. Also popular have been the many programs on local history, geography and the local environment.

The Winter Concert, held annually in December, quickly has become a seasonal tradition for many community residents. The concert has featured harpsichordist Rebecca Pechefsky and flutist Andrew Bolotowsky in repeat performances. In 1998, as shown below, they were joined by soprano Mary Hurlbut and cellist David Bakamjian.

The Friends of Middletown Thrall Library depends upon its membership for its success. Members support the group not only through their volunteer work, encouragement, and the support they give to the library and, consequently, to the community.

Your contribution will make it possible for the Friends to fulfill its mission:

"The purpose of this organization shall be to maintain an association of persons interested in Middletown Thrall Library... to stimulate the use of the library's resources and services... to support and cooperate with the library in developing library services, programs and facilities for the community... to support the freedom to read as expressed in the American Library Association Bill of Rights...."

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