Anonymous donor honors library ‘angels’

HILLSDALE –One of the informal dictionary definitions of “angel” is “a person who provides financial backing for some undertaking, as a play or political campaign.” Or, perhaps, a library.

Someone familiar with the Roeliff Jansen Community Library (RJCL) has recently bestowed on the fund-raising campaign an unexpected gift of $5,000. That still leaves the library with nearly half a million dollars to raise to completely pay for its new, environmentally friendly structure, but the money is a big boost. And while the donor wishes to remain anonymous, that person’s intention is to honor the volunteer library staff with a commemoration “To The Extraordinary RJCL Volunteers” inscribed on a bench outside the main entrance of the nearly complete building on Route 22 just south of the Hillsdale hamlet.


Another informal definition of angel is “a person whose actions and thoughts are consistently virtuous.” And that might describe the very nature of the library’s volunteers.

It is the volunteer staff that enables the library to function. Upwards of 30 active participants are involved in every aspect of running the facility, from unpacking new books and organizing them in the collection, to checking them out for patrons at the circulation desk. They see to maintenance, community outreach, fund-raising, programs for adults and children, and every other aspect of the library’s operation.

Nina Mankin, director of the library’s capital campaign, uses words like “astonishing,” “extraordinary,” and “dedicated” to extol the virtues of the volunteers. She says they are the pride of the region. “Within the Mid-Hudson Library System,” which includes nearly 70 libraries, “RJCL silently sports what is possibly the most effective group of volunteers of any library. They make it possible for our community to have this valuable facility, which is about to increase seven fold in size and without excessive overhead.”

There is only one full-time paid staff person, Library Director Carol Briggs, and three part-time staff. Her word for the volunteer workers is “invaluable,” and she goes on to say, “I mean you can’t place a monetary figure on them. They come from all different walks of life, and all different jobs. They bring in such a variety of experience and knowledge, and they are outgoing, and it just makes it a joyful place to work.”

The anonymous angel benefactor specifically mentioned three of those volunteers along with the gift:  Marge Clark, Marjorie Deitz and Sally Laing. All belong to the RJLC Friends of the Library organization, which has historically been the organizing force behind the volunteer base.

Ms. Mankin says that Ms. Clark has annually given over 300 hours of her time year after year helping with maintenance at the library. Ms. Deitz, a past president of the Friends group, has spent years helping build the library community. And Ms. Laing, current president of the group, has applied her efforts over many years to organizing and coordinating numerous book sales benefiting the library, among other duties.

The three local women will be honored on Thursday, July 8, at 10:30 a.m. when the Friends group celebrates the end of an era after having met yearly in the old library building in Hillsdale for 34 years. The public is welcome to join them for light refreshments and lingering memories at the Mount Washington House next door. The old library will be renovated as the new home of Town Hall as soon as the brand new library opens, probably in mid-August.

Right now the transition from the old library building to the new is “a little hectic,” says Director Briggs, and “we’re running the library and packing at the same time.” Again, it is those volunteers who are organizing the movement of the library’s various collections over to their new home down the road. So far, she reports, some 3,000 pounds of books have already been packed. “It’s just a wonderful group of people,” says Briggs. “You just show them what needs to be done and they come and do it.”

The finishing touches are still being put on the new structure. During the turnover of buildings, while the old library is winding down and the new one ramping up, those involved with the library hope basic functions will be maintained so patrons won’t have any interruption of services. The towns of Hillsdale, Copake and Ancram are served by the library.

Despite the recent $5,000 anonymous gift, Ms. Mankin of the Roeliff Jansen Community Library Capital Campaign says they are still short some $500,000 of their fund-raising goal for the new library building, and contributions are always very welcome. To contact the campaign call (518) 329-0182 or go online at

Meanwhile the volunteer angels are on the ground, helping the library continue functioning while it makes the transition from old to new. “We’ve got people who are so excited and working on programs now,” says Ms. Briggs, “it’s just gonna be a hopping place!” 

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