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.
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