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Flower Memorial Library bookish about its history, success

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It was a “simple and modest” ceremony in July 1903 when the cornerstone for Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library was laid. The library is marking the 120th anniversary of that event with a bit of quiet fanfare but won’t be shy in the next year and a half to mark more milestone anniversaries.

There are two more 120-year celebrations upcoming: The library was presented to the city in 1904 and it opened to the public in 1905.

With such a treasure on their hands, library officials believe its heritage is worth shouting from its copper dome-top, something that was muted in 2003 for its 100th anniversary during building renovations. Meanwhile, new figures from the library reflect some astonishing user numbers this budget year when compared to last budget year.

Next Saturday, Oct. 7, library executive director Suzanne C. Renzi-Falge will be a guest speaker at the annual History and Genealogy Fair at the Jefferson County Historical Society.

“I’m going to be talking about the original roots of the library and how Flower Library got started,” she said.

In 1903, those roots finally took hold when Emma Flower Taylor, daughter of Roswell, who died in 1899, “advanced from the audience” with a silver trowel in hand to place the cornerstone. A few minutes later, New York State Sen. Elon R. Brown (1857-1922) shared some thoughts:

“The largest waste of human society is ignorance. Failure is want of knowledge. Success is knowing how. The largest gain is education, the full development of all man’s God-given powers, the prevention of intellectual and moral waste.”

In an interview at the library last week, Renzi-Falge was asked about her thoughts on those words.

“We’re still doing our best to educate and make a more literate community,” she said. “So I would say it’s still the job of the citizens to educate other citizens, and that’s what a public library can do.”

These days, it does that through much more than books — from DVDs, CDs and digital checkouts to classes and passes to state parks. And more people are taking advantage of what Flower Memorial Library has to offer.

In data collected by the library for its annual Report to the Community, the number of item checkouts increased by 67.5% in its most recent funding year — July 2022 to the end of this past June.

Library data also shows that the number of library visitors increased by 107,317 in that funding year — a nearly 67% hike.

“We’re offering a lot more services and our collection is a lot more robust,” Renzi-Falge said of that spike. “We weeded a lot of old stuff out so it’s easier to find things now. That older material is vetted for relevancy and accuracy after so many years. There are library guidelines out there, that if they’re no longer relevant, we weed it.”

The weeded-out books either go to the library’s “free cart” or to the annual Friends of Flower Library book sale. This year’s sale opens on Saturday, Oct. 21, with a preview night 6:30 to 8:30 Oct. 20. The bag sale begins Oct. 27, and the sale will conclude Monday, Oct. 30.

More people are also seeking library cards at the city library. Issued cards grew about 21% over the year.

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Flower Memorial Library’s fountains, facade will undergo repairs

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Flower Memorial Library is about to embark on a series of projects that includes making sure small pieces of marble don’t fall from the top of the historic building and getting its two iconic fountains fixed.

In the spring, maintenance workers discovered that 3- or 4-inch pieces of marble were falling to the ground.

A chain was subsequently put up in front of the building to prevent the public from entering the area.

“You don’t want pieces of marble falling on people’s heads,” library director Suzie Renzi-Falge said.

All summer the two fountains in front of the building have been covered because they need to be repaired.

Earlier this month, the City Council appropriated $72,428 to hire Heritage Masonry, Syracuse, to repoint and repair the building’s cornice to prevent more pieces from falling.

The city also is waiting for a quote from a company to see how much it will cost to fix an electrical problem on the two fountains.

Somehow water had seeped into the fountain’s electrical conduit, City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said. The city hopes to find out whether the electrical equipment can be moved from underneath the fountains and into the building.

Almost 20 years ago, fundraising efforts saved the two fountains from being removed.

In the past several years, repairs have been done to the building’s facade at least two other times, Mix remembered.

The engraved lettering at the top of the library and its soffit had to undergo repairs. Heritage Masonry — which also has done work on a wall at Thompson Park — was involved in that work, Mix said.

Inside, about eight windows on the second floor of the 1975 addition will be replaced and there will be upgrades to the lighting in the 1812 and Old Watertown Rooms, Renzi-Falge said.

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New York Libraries Are Giving Away 500,000 Books for Keeping Kids Engaged This Summer

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At New York Public Libraries this summer, kids and teens will get to participate in a giveaway of half a million books.

Drop by neighborhood NYPL locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, or Staten Island anytime to choose between 500,000 new and diverse tomes: they’re to take home and keep forever, the idea being that “a lifelong love of reading—and your own home library—begin with choosing your first book.”

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