He saved the best for last

Extolling the virtues of a small-town library


ELDRED, NY — “He saved the best for last!”
That was the exclamatory explanation and welcome directed to Michael Benedict, who recently visited the Sunshine Hall Free Library.
On its face, a visit to the library doesn’t seem all that extraordinary, but Benedict had just completed the RCLS Road Trip Challenge, in which he visited all 47 libraries in the Ramapo Catskill Library System.
The system serves Rockland, Ulster and Orange counties in addition to Sullivan.
The program was introduced in June as a way for patrons to visit as many libraries within the system as possible and learn about the different programs and services each offers to its community.
Since its inception on June 26, 2,196 folks have picked up their road maps and an amazing 2,072 have begun their journey. Benedict is the very first to finish the task.
Asked about his trek, he estimated that the route took him about 900 miles. He said the first 15-or-so libraries were easy, because he worked them into travel for appointments or meetings, or they were in areas he just was passing through. By then, he was hooked on the idea of completing the circuit.
Benedict viewed it as a challenge, saying that he’s always up for a day trip. He grouped libraries by area, put them into Google Maps and took off. He said the fact that not all libraries keep the same days or hours of operation added to the logistics.
In all, his visitations took place over 13 days. He called it an adventure, and was all smiles when he arrived at Sunshine Hall in Eldred.
It’s always good to complete what one sets out to do.
Benedict is from Cornwall and works as a children’s librarian in the Sloatsburg library.
His connection to Sunshine Hall is unique but his is not the only life touched by the little library in the Town of Highland.
In a small town, the library represents a gathering place to share not only lofty ideas but also local news, and sometimes—we must admit—a touch of gossip. It’s a good place to have rumors squelched and replaced with knowledge.
Often when patrons come to Sunshine Hall, children will be shushed with the admonition “we’re in a library.” But animated discussions among the stacks, between computer users and those covering the circulation desk are everyday occurrences. So is the service that patrons have come to rely on.
One such patron is Lisa Heller of Brooklyn, who has a vacation home in Highland Lake. She calls Sunshine Hall a treasure. The library is located across the street from Pecks, the grocery store that serves the area, and she gravitates to Sunshine Hall whenever she’s on a shopping trip.
When she was working on her thesis for her master’s degree, she had trouble getting her hands on books in New York City that were critical to her research. Says she, “With her trademark smile and endless patience, the superhero that is head librarian Patty Kennedy somehow tracked down these obscure texts and had them transferred from another library system.”
And there is Adrienne Von Bloch. She lived in Glen Spey and visited Sunshine Hall each and every week, with literal arms-full of children’s books for her young daughter Hazel. Then the Von Bloch family relocated out of state. Adrienne shared with a library volunteer via text that Hazel had set up her bedroom as a library and handed out homemade library cards to the family. Despite being away from the area for several months at that point, Hazel named her library Sunshine Hall. “Sunshine Hall will be her favorite library for life,” Adrienne said.
Heller agrees with that assessment. “Patty and her wonderful team of volunteers have made that place so welcoming and warm.”
One such volunteer is Camry, a 14-year-old golden retriever who can be found on Thursday afternoons by the circulation desk, usually asleep, but willing to greet patrons, some who plan their trip to the library to see her when she’s on duty.
Benedict had the pleasure of meeting Camry when he completed his road trip. He considered such a greeting to be icing on the cake, and agreed wholeheartedly that he had indeed saved the best for last!
Sunshine Hall Free Library is hosting a fundraising dinner dance at the New Inn at Lackawaxen at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 3. Information can be found at www.sunshinehallfreelibrary.org.

Sunshine Hall Free Library, libraries, Camry


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