Elting Memorial Library Makes Money and Memories

Community members gathered in lightly-weathered literature bliss. While leafing through more than 10,000 donated books underneath tented tables, there was a will
to eventually leave the lawn with a pleasant read or two.

The 62nd Elting Memorial Library Fair was held on Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The books are great and the prices are good,” said Carol Roper, a volunteer of more than 50 years for this annual, lively event and former board president. “It’s just such a great community. There’s a fine fundraiser for the library.”

Most of the books were priced between 50 cents and $2, which is the primary source of the $30,000 goal that has been reached the past few years for the library, according to Chris Watkins, co-chair of the annual library fair and former board president.

This event started in 1956 and was originally held within the smaller space of the library, but the festivities and community fascination that have expanded with each year eventually encouraged the shift to the large lawn situated behind their main building.

Upon arrival, two boys were dressing themselves with cardboard boxes, which once held the books that were shelved onto white centerfold tables, and running around as airplanes, who were prepared to take liftoff into the adventurous written world and the other lands to explore.

“There were three boys here today: they’re blonde and blue-eyed brothers [who have] been coming here since they were little, and I talked to them and said, ‘you know, I’ve been watching you guys come here all this time.’ So that’s a fun thing about the fair, that people look forward to it every year,” said Charlene Dye, co-chair of the annual library fair and former board member. “Those kids are all over the place. They’re so excited.”

About six blue pop-up tents housed vendors, who were there both in support of the fair and to promote their own businesses, while white tents were filled with other community members, who were there to sell plants from local nurseries and farms, flea market finds, food, jewelry and more. There were also raffles for 135 prizes, the biggest one being two nights at the Mohonk Mountain House for two. All this was done to help raise money in their donated contributions to this fair.

Roughly 15 to 20 volunteers from SUNY New Paltz were also involved throughout this process, amongst the more than 200 volunteers, including student athletes, who were reportedly a great help in their transporting of heavy boxes from inside the library to the event space, as well as their pitching of tents and carrying of tables and chairs.

“So far it’s been pretty easy-going. People have been enjoying themselves,” said third-year graphic design major Tanasia LaBrew, who volunteered for the day’s festivities. “They seem to really like it so far. [There are] more people than I expected.”

Watkins considers this to be one of the one of the biggest community events in New Paltz, while Dye adds that this is a major fundraiser for the library; they both have served as co-chairs of this specific event since 2017 and have been involved with the fair for nearly 10 years. They see it as a great opportunity for people to bundle together with books and a sense of community, despite busy schedules and other commitments.

“It’s a very divisive time, so to have local events like this where everybody comes together, in support of a good cause, and also find great books and other bargains, it’s just a really special thing,” Watkins said.

The fair was originally held in July, but due to hot weather and a lack of college students to help volunteer, the board ultimately decided to shift the festivities to September in 2012.

The local activist women group Resisterhood performed at this fair for the first time, as the crowd watched and walked in applause, and more live music was performed throughout the day, without charge.

While Saturday was the main event, there was still time for people to leaf through and buy books on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., just without the other items and live performances.

“The books draw all kinds of people, because there are all kinds of books. For the community, it just draws them like a fair would,” Dye said. “They come to have a good time.”

Some books, including rare, special and expensive ones, are sold online before the fair through rare book collectors, which often bring in hundreds of dollars, according to Watkins.

While Roper claims that most fairgoers are usually locals, she had also greeted some people from outside the area this year.

Danielle Siess, a 28-year-old resident of NYC, decided to drop by the fair spontaneously for her first day trip in New Paltz. “We were driving through the main street, and we’re like, ‘wow, this looks so cute!’ and then we stumbled upon the fair. I love books, so we saw all the books, and I was like, ‘we have to go!’,” Siess said. “It’s definitely an intimate community, and it’s nice to see kids and families out participating together. I’m glad we stumbled upon it.”