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!

1 comment:

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