Monday, March 28, 2011

Bohemian Book Bin

A Visit to an Off-the-Beaten-Path Book Shop: The Bohemian Book Bin

For some time, I'd wanted to check out a bookshop that someone had mentioned to me last autumn. Over the winter, during one of those quiet, grey-sky weekends, I decided to take a drive to this place--the Bohemian Book Bin, located in Lake Katrine, NY (it was previously located just south in Kingston proper). It's a curious little place, on a side road off of Route 9W. The few times I'd looked for it, I couldn't find it, until someone pointed out the very small, black-and-white sign hanging in a parking lot a distance away from the shop. The sign was at least 500 feet, if not more, from the shop itself. And one cannot actually see the shop from the main road, because it is hidden by a slight hill and rock formation. But if you drive up the side road, you'll see to your right, a little industrial garage style building, with the nice little sign hanging out front, which reads "Bohemian Book Bin."

The front of the building is curiously decorated with an old church pew, an ink-well desk from some old single room school house, and piles of books. As you can see, there was a little snow on the ground the first time I found the place. And still, the books were outside. The shop was closed, and so I had to return another time. When I did I found that the inside looked a bit like the outside in its appearance, a bit grungy and disorganized. This is not to say "totally" disorganized, but books were piled haphazardly everywhere around the store. Admittedly, this sort of bookstore design has its benefits and can be attractive to book-hunters. I know that I like finding little nuggets and goodies in piles of books, that might otherwise be missed. Inside the shop was a little dark and musty, but it had an interesting and otherwise charming feel. They played some good music over the speakers, and the young woman who was the cashier and clerk was friendly and helpful.

The first day I went, the website said they were open, but in fact they had posted some different hours on the door, so when I arrived they were closed. I would recommend people to visit the shop and see what treasures may be had inside. The best sections, in my opinion, were toward the back of the shop, which was in better order. But if you go, give them a call first, to make sure they are open.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Phoenicia Public Library Fire

Rising from the Ashes of a Library Fire

Early on the morning of Saturday, March 19th, 2011, the Phoenicia Public Library (~13.5 miles from Woodstock, NY) had a major fire, which gutted a good portion of the building it was occupying. An article (see here) appearing in the Daily Freeman newspaper was forwarded to me, and I decided that I'd go up and take a look to see what had happened and what the next steps the town had to resurrect its library. The following Saturday, March 26, I drove up to Phoenicia with my mother, into the cool air of the mountains on an early spring afternoon. The sky was blue and the temperature was probably just ten degrees above freezing. But it was fresh air. And the sun shined brightly.

Driving into town, we actually first found the "new" library, which had a nice big sign out front, and which you will see further down in this posting. The photos you see here are actually from the burned library, mostly out front. It was located on the main thoroughfare going through Phoenicia. The "new" temporary library is housed in an old medical arts building. I went in and found a group of people chatting. I asked what was happening and met the very friendly and helpful local librarian & director, Tracy Priest, who told me that they were trying to get things set up in the building as best as they could. I'll return to this conversation shortly. But I wanted to show some of the original library here at first.

Ms. Priest told me where I'd find the original library, and cautioned me about being careful. So, when I went back onto the main street, I just took photos from the front and side, and didn't go near any of the potentially dangerous areas of the building. Here you can see some of the burned building and materials that were tossed out the side...including some burned equipment, computers, and books.

The front and side of the original library, which burned. Below, a reminder of the "Best Library Ever!" posted in the window, as seen from the front.

Back to the "new" library space (above)--I had a nice conversation with Ms. Priest, and took a quick tour around the nascent little library. Considering the circumstances, the resilience of the Phoenicia Library is remarkable. Though, there were probably only a hundred or so books available, everything seemed to be in full motion--moving toward a well-functioning new library. Above, we see a table with a computer and some welcoming coffee...for visitors that Saturday, when I visited.

Above, a shelf of local and Catskill history. Below, the children's room.

I found the image of the library's logo of a bear reading on some Adirondack chairs quite charming. They put the image on some t-shirts, as well as out front of the new library. See the images below...

Below is the new library location. It was a great pleasure to meet the folks in Phoenicia, and to see what a strong spirit they had after this devastating fire. Phoenicia, which has been known to suffer devastating floods from time to time (as they are located in a floodplain), has been resilient once again after this tragedy.

For those interested in helping, monetary donations can be sent to the Phoenicia Library (Temporary Location), 9 Ava Maria Drive, P.O. Box 555, Phoenicia, NY 12464, or to the website ( See also the Facebook Page "Phoenicia Librarians." If you would like to call the library, the number is 845-688-7811. We wish Phoenicia all the best in their work to rebuild their library and community gathering space!