Inside Rensselaer
* Sigma Alpha Epsilon Hosts 21st Annual Farkouh Field Day
(l-r) Friends board chair Ruth Gallagher, Assistant Institute Archivist Amy Rupert, Acting Director of the Libraries Robert Mayo, and Carl Westerdahl, former director of alumni relations and a member of the Friends. Rupert and Westerdahl were the featured speakers at the recent “Leadership Legends” event hosted by the Friends of Folsom Library.
Organization a True “Friend” to Library, Rensselaer Community
If you’ve ever borrowed a DVD or best seller from the Folsom Library, sat in the cushioned chairs there, or admired the artwork and exhibits, you’ve benefited from the generosity of the Friends of the Folsom Library.

Since its founding more than three decades ago, this service organization has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to enrich the library experience at Rensselaer.

Friends’ contributions typically provide extras that would not be funded by the library’s operating budget: popular magazines, novels, and nonfiction works; amenities such as plants and comfortable furnishings; and variety of programs. As a result, the library is more inviting and offers a more diverse collection than it would without the support of its Friends.

The Folsom Library’s 3,200-DVD collection — tapped by borrowers 18,000 times last year — exists because of the Friends. The Friends organization pays for the library’s subscriptions to Time, National Geographic, and other mass-market publications, and purchased the stainless steel sculpture “More Bars in More Places,” which adorns a second-floor wall. Every year, the Friends contribute to the McKinney Contest, Rensselaer’s writing competition.

“The Friends add another dimension,” said Robert Mayo, acting director of the Rensselaer Libraries and member of the Friends Board of Directors. “They view the library as a premier facility and as an intellectual and social hub. Their contributions reflect that perspective.”

One of two libraries on the Troy campus, the Richard G. Folsom Library is home to Rensselaer’s main collection. (The smaller Architecture Library is located in the Greene Building.) Folsom has more than 385,000 bound volumes, about 225 print journals, over 44,000 electronic journals, and over 60,000 electronic books. It also provides access to millions of additional titles via partnerships with other New York academic institutions and interlibrary loan arrangements.

The Friends of the Folsom Library is known for its educational and entertaining programming. Its recent “Leadership Legends” presentation highlighted the often colorful lives of pivotal players in Rensselaer’s past. Co-founder Amos Eaton, for example, was charged with forgery in connection with a land deal and sentenced to life in prison. President Thomas C. Brinsmade had a heart attack and died while appealing for funds at a public meeting. This past spring, the Friends hosted “The Phantom Rensselaer of Yesterday.” The lunch-hour lecture took the audience on a historical tour, from Rensselaer’s first and only building in 1824 through subsequent structures, many of which no longer exist.

Other Friends efforts have brought local authors, Rensselaer “celebrities,” and traveling exhibits — including the Smithsonian’s “Earth from Space” — to campus. One of the most popular Friends programs featured three-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion Tyler Hinman ’06, who wowed the audience by completing a New York Times crossword in five minutes and 46 seconds.

The Friends also co-sponsor monthly Lunch and Learn programs with the Rensselaer Retirees Forum. Topics have ranged from travel and technology to timely issues, such as the economy, perspectives on the war in Iraq, and the clean-up of the Hudson River.

Friends’ members include individuals, couples, families, and clubs. Not surprisingly, Rensselaer faculty, staff, alumni, and retirees are well-represented. But the organization also attracts individuals outside the university who appreciate the central role of the library for students, faculty, staff, and the community as a whole.

“We have a shared interest in contributing to something important. At a university, what could be more important than the library?” said Ruth Gallagher, chair of the board of Friends of the Folsom Library. A Rensselaer retiree, Gallagher was an Institute employee for 15 years, including eight years as director of purchasing.

“Libraries provide resources that you can’t get on your own,” she added. “As Friends, we enhance those resources by helping the library go a bit beyond what it could otherwise afford.”

Friends’ resources come from two sources: income earned on a small endowment that was established in 1981 and contributions from current Friends members. “All gifts, no matter what size, get put to good use,” Gallagher said. “The Friends are always seeking new members to invigorate the organization with new ideas. Expanding our financial base will enable us to enhance the library’s appeal in this fast-paced information age.”

Friends of the Folsom Library welcomes new members and contributions. More information — including a membership form — is available at Click on About Us, Friends of Folsom, and Joining the Friends.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 3, Number 14, December 11, 2009
©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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