NOTES FROM NAPANOCH #17
Marion - Part Three
by Joe Bevilacqua
Part three of the story of Marion M. Dumond, retired Library Director from the Ellenville Public Library, in her own words. When we last left Marion, she had just met her future husband, Paul Dumond, while working together on the Sullivan County book mobile:
Then, my boss came to me and said, “You know, you are ready for administration” and there was a library in Pearl River looking for a professional librarian. They had wonderful clerical people but they had never had a certified librarian. So after we married, we moved down there for two years.
We weren't happy there. It was too expensive, too hustle bustle. We thought it would be wonderful so close to New York City. We got there, we found out we couldn't afford to go into New York City. Just paying rent took everything the two of us earned.
My son was born in Rockland County and Alana called and said Ellenville Library is in trouble. She told me the issue and she said they are looking for somebody. I said are they advertising? She said "no they asked me to find somebody or several somebody's to interview." When she told me the problems I thought "I'm not that much of a fool." But I came up and I interviewed and I thought I'm getting closer to home. I think there is a message to it, I started working at the Ellenville Library on April 1, 1965.
They gave me three goals that they wanted achieved. They wanted to establish a local history museum. They wanted to improve the Ellenville Library's stature among libraries, and they wanted adequate space.
In 1966, we opened a local history museum in what had been a cellar room. From the dirt on the walls, I would say it had been a coal cellar. We put innumerable coats of bright yellow paint on the walls of this fifteen by fifteen square room. We got showcases and file cabinets and we opened.
We did our level best to expand where we were but we were in the Hunt Memorial Building, owned by the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WTCU) and the ladies were unwilling to sell it to us. It was also the time after congressman Joe Resnick had died, and the Resnick family came fourth and offered us property.
We went to the public, twice. The first time our proposition was defeated, and I felt terribly defeated. I think we lost by seven votes, eleven votes, a very small number.
But my board was excellent. They said, “ This is the will of the public and a defeat is defeat. You don't ram it down their throats.”
We went back to ground zero and changed architects and did the planning all over again. The second proposition was smaller but it passed soundly.
The library moved in January of '75. Never checked a book out until we were dedicated. We moved the museum upstairs out of the cellar, where were had been renting space, into the section of the building that we owned. That had been deeded to the library in the 1920s and the deed said “as long as we used it for library purposes.”
We were only nicely settled upstairs when I got “served,” because the WTCU did not think running a museum was a library purpose. They wanted us out and the building back. We had never intended to stay there in perpetuity.
It was my first and last experience with that kind of lawsuit, and we won. We set library law in the sense that a New York State judge ruled that the preservation of local history was very much a public library purpose.
In the meantime, the Resnicks had given us that lovely Queen Ann house on the corner, and we were making plans to move the museum in there, so immediately after we won, we deeded the property back to the WTCU. We had made our point.
The next ten, twelve years are kind of a blur—busy, growing, active. We did wonderful things. I worked with Katherine Terwilliger on the two books she wrote. She and I co-authored a little book about old houses in the Town of Wawarsing.
During my tenure, I am proud to say, the library became very well respected. Although small, it is considered to be a leader, a library that would take a chance on new media and that is responsive to the public.
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