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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on January 25,1995. Used by permission.



Library Source of Pride, Built by Many

By Jeff Berkman

The Times Herald-Record

It has been a busy and important time for those of us committed to expanding library services and imporving opportunities for our families, friends and neighbors, and our community-at-large.

Soon, announcements heralding the grand opening of our new Middletown Thrall Library at the renovated Erie Train Station will be issued. Our new facility will serve to protect our rich historic heritage and incorporate our past with our future. Please keep a look out for all planned activities.

It has been a privilege and an honor to serve our community, first as a member of the Friends of Thrall, and later as a trustee of the library board. During my tenure as president we concentrated on three goals:

1.The construction of a new 30,000 square-foot library at the Erie Station in downtown Middletown.

2. The automation of our new library, including computerization of our card catalogue and linkage with other libraries.

3. The hiring of our new direcotr to lead our dedicated staff.

We have much to be proud of:

Within a few weeks time our new Executive Director, Mr. Kevin Gallagher, will open the doors to a new beginning for our community. Our staff will be guiding our patrons in the use of our automated computer systems. All of us will be able to enjouy the beautifully resotred reading room located in the old erie Station portion of our new facility.

Some of the other highlights of our library are:

A magnificent children's library, which includes increased book capacity, impoved seating and space for storytelling, crafts, theater possibilities, and a children's computer.

A meeting room for the Friends of the Library and other community groups to use for programs.

An expanded research and reference area.

More spacious seating and reading areas.

A rare book and historic document room and its rebuilt "Union News" newsstand used in the train station in earlier days.

Just as Middletown's railroads linked us to regions beyond, our library will similarly bind us with our neighbors.

The construction of the new library is the result of hard work contributd by many in our community such as the Friends of Thrall, the Middletown school board and many of its staff, the municipal government and Middletown Thrall's own devoted library staff. The taxpayers will have a library which will benefit the community as a symbol of excellence and a place to work, read and relax.

It is vitally important that we do not rest to enjoy our accomplishments for too long. Even before our doors open we must continue to prepare for the future. Some suggestions for the library board and the community at large to consider as future agenda items are:

1. To designate Middletown and our new library site as the public access point of entry, or the node, for the Internet and often lauded information superhighway. To accomplish this proposal a new parnership should be established incorporating regional groups committed to this shared goal. Orange County Community College, Ramapo Catskill Library System, Middletown Busienss Improvement District, regional Industrial Development Agencies and neighboring school districts and local governments could each joint this partnership in order to maximize potential and share expected costs.

2. Reformation of our library tax district is needed. Those areas which currently receive the full benefits of service should be encouaged to shoulder the responsibiltiy of payment. It is my hope that contracts for service can be negotiated with the towns and schools which have had free access to our library.

3. Currently, the Board of Trustees consists of five individuals elected to a five-year term. If is my view that trustee service should be limited to two terms. Ten years is certainly a long enough time to contribute without a break.

Expansion of the board to seven members would also allow for more broad-based community participation. Please get involved.

Our new library will unite our diverse community regardless of ethnic background, economic status, age or literacy level. It is our hope that the new library will serve as the heart and soul of our living community. The bottom line is, we will have a safe stimulating, quiet, resourceful facility that will lead us into the next century of learning.

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Jeffrey Berkman
Orange County Legislature
PO Box 787
Middletown, New York 10940
(845) 342-6813

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