Summer 2002

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The Library Circuit: Newburgh Free Library

By Muriel Verdibello, Library Director

Summer 2002 issue of Trustee

Located on the hill overlooking New York's majestic Hudson River, the Newburgh Free Library is a modern facility in the midst of the area's historic district. Bright blue and gold banners grace the front of the building to proclaim the Library's 150th anniversary, which is being celebrated with a wide variety of events from a commemorative quilt to be created by children to a "Diversity through Dance" series to showcase its neighborhood cultures.

The Newburgh Library can trace its formal beginnings back to 1852. It is the fourth oldest free public circulating library in the state and one of the few libraries that operate under a Board of Education. Its first home was in a Newburgh Academy schoolroom stocked with 2,001 volumes. In 1876 a fashionable three-story Victorian building was built to house the Library and this facility served the city for the next 100 years. During this time a genealogy and local history collection was added and remains one of the library's strongest collections.

By the 1960s Newburgh was no longer a small city library. The Library was striving to serve the 60,000 residents in the newly enlarged city school system and thousands of additional members of the Ramapo-Catskill Library System where Newburgh served as the Central Reference Library. With the support of its Friends group and other citizens, the present four-story building was built in 1967, offering commanding views of the Hudson River from its reading areas. Today the Library welcomes more than 300,000 visitors each year and houses over 280,000 books, magazines, newspapers, and videos.

Like many libraries, Newburgh works hard to fulfill its two basic responsibilities: to provide substantial print resources and traditional services and to secure the technology to make the Library a globally relevant information center. Many of its traditional programs are geared to serving specific population groups such as the Homework Help Center and Parent-Child Workshops for young families, the annual Holiday Luncheon for seniors and the Heritage Festival for Hispanics. The Business Resources and Information Exchange (BRIX) program has garnered national awards for its assistance to small and minority-owned businesses. One of Newburgh's latest services is the Hudson River Resource Center Online aimed at promoting and preserving this beautiful waterway that flows near its back door.

The Newburgh Library's global connections were expanded with the opening of the e-Learning Center, a cutting edge classroom funded in part by public and corporate donations, where hundreds have taken computer training classes. Other "click on" services include email service for overdues, reserves and reference requests, electronic renewals and free Internet access. At the hub of its services is the Library's web site <>, with links to remote databases, computerized catalogs and thousands of useful sites, that allows Newburgh to be a virtual library whose resources are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Library's 150th anniversary celebration kicked off with a special newspaper section and an afternoon party of music, art and displays; a formal rededication will wrap up the activities in late fall. This exciting eight-month-long event will offer the community the opportunity to reflect on the history and accomplishments of this cornerstone institution.

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