Rensselaerville Library focuses on ‘what people ask of us’

— Photo from the Rensselaerville Library website

The present Rensselaerville Library was organized in 1896 as a reading room in the row house where it is today. It is located on the hamlet’s main street.

RENSSELAERVILLE — On May 15, residents of the Greenville Central School District will, in addition to voting on the Greenville school budget, board members, and library, also vote on funding for the Rensselaerville Library.

They will decide on spending $25,996 for the library, located in the historic hamlet of Rensselaerville. The library itself has a history dating back to 1798 when it had 200 books and 186 subscribers. If the resolution is defeated, the library will instead get last year’s funding, which is $1,700 less.

“We are an association library,” explained Kimberly Graff, director of the Rensselaerville Library. “Our budget comes partially from the town of Rensselaerville and partially from the Greenville School District, but mostly from fundraising.”

The annual budget of roughly $130,000 is supported by the town with about $25,500, so more than half — roughly $78,500 — comes from fundraising, Graff said.

“The library’s trustees are very dedicated, hardworking folks,” she said.

Public libraries, like those in Guilderland, Bethlehem, and Voorheesville, follow school-district lines where residents elect library trustees that set budgets and have the power to levy taxes.

If the Greenville School District voters pass the resolution on May 15, Graff said the added funds would to toward buying new materials and enhancing library programs.

“We’ve seen an increase in usage,” she said. “In 2017, we had over 15,000 items circulating.”

The entire town has a population of just 1,843, according to the last federal census in 2010.

Commenting on the high use of a library in such a small town, Graff said, “One of the most fascinating things about Rensselaerville is there is such dedication here to reading and the arts. There is great devotion to the library.”

She also noted that libraries in rural areas are particularly important these days as many in the area have limited internet service. “People depend on our six public computers,” she said. Also, since many rural residents can’t stream movies, Graff said, “They rely on our DVD collection.”

“In the summer, folks come up, and our attendance goes up,” said Graff.

She also said, “The population in Rensselaerville goes in cycles. There are periods of time with senior citizens and there are periods of time with new families. We’re in a phase now with young families. We’ve hired a youth-services person. Story time has become very popular.”

Graff noted that the library even hosts a service dog that children can read to.

In addition to someone who cleans the library, there are just four staff members. “We hope to bring in a new person with more programs for adults and other activities,” said Graff.

She went on, “We try to bring in as many programs as people request.” She noted, for example, that last year several people had expressed interest in learning about Alzheimer’s disease, so the library put together a series on that subject.

“We try to focus on what the community asks of us,” concluded Graff.​

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