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Friends of the Allentown Public Library




Friends Newsletter











    Thanks to the brisk response from our members to the Fall Newsletter, contributions have already placed our treasury ahead of last year.


   For 2008-09, amid the economic downturn, we were able to give the Library $6,200 to buy books. That came after five years in a row when the Friends contribution was $10,000.


  Well, the latest report (Jan. 31) from Treasurer David Beazley shows receipts of $6,100 and memorials of $200 since the fiscal year began in July.


  Bolstered a bit by starting balances, the savings account has $6,603 and the checking $534 for a grand total of $7,137.


  Responses from this Spring Newsletter will boost the total toward our annual gift even more.



  A short time ago, I was approached by Friends President Dick Cowen to write an article for the Friends Newsletter.  He told me that it was customary practice to include a contribution from the Library Director.  No pressure, he said, just a few words about my experiences as Interim Director. 


  I gave it some thought. . . about the adjustment of returning to the workforce after a short time of being a stay-at-home mom. . . about how I learned to apply my previous experiences at work, and at home, to my new responsibilities. . .about how my perspectives on Library service have altered to adapt to a new environment.


The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that what I was really thinking about was all that it represented: change.  Not always easy, not always pretty, but change nonetheless. 

  Then it occurred to me that I am not the only one who has experienced change.  The Library has seen even bigger changes lately.  How can I write about changes, without writing about the Library?


  Things were changing at the Library well before my time began here.  That is the beauty of the Library: there is always something new.  Since last fall, plans that have been in place for many months are moving full steam ahead. 


  It began with the relocation of the Gates Computer Lab from the second to first floor last October.  More computers, a better configuration and easier access to the help of reference Librarians made what was a good thing even better. 


  Coupled with that was the allocation of three workstations for school and work-related-use only.  Now users who need extra time to fill out online job applications have a dedicated area solely for them. 


  New programs, a new face on the Web and displays have changed and enhanced the Library’s overall appeal.  Recently acquired display shelving in the adult collections allows us to feature print and audio gems both old and new.  Rental books have found a home in an attractive new unit in the fiction section that allows for easier access. 


  The sorely missed Adult Book Discussion Group has started once again.  Other adult programming, including master gardener lectures, author presentations and book signings have begun to fill our events calendar. 


  A final addition to our programming schedule is a monthly film series featuring award-winning films from around the world. You can find our adult programming information and information about all of our other events and offerings on our new website.  Still a work in progress, it was a tremendous change that created a new face for the Library in the community.


  Finally, the biggest change of all was the migration to a new circulation system that took effect in February.  This was something the Library has been anticipating for almost a year. 


  The planning, training and updating preparations were mostly complete when we made the migration to a bigger and more robust means of conducting daily business and managing our collections effectively.  There are still a few kinks being smoothed out to be sure, but in the end, we are confident that it will prove to be the most positive change to date.


  I would like to say that this was all because of me, but the truth of the matter is that for some of it, I am just along for the ride.  It has been an exciting one, too. 


  Working with the staff and being part of a new perspective -- not just being the cause -- has made my experience here a positive one. 


  I look forward to doing what I can to help create the foundation for whatever changes, both permanent and temporary, may lay ahead for the Library.


  Editor’s note: Renee Haines was named Interim Director starting Nov. 1. She served previous posts with the Parkland Community Library, Lehigh Carbon Community College Library and Easton Area Public Library.




    Twice in recent years, the Friends Newsletter has carried an item about the appearance in Bethlehem of author James McBride – first at Moravian, later at Lehigh.


  He said that part of his best-selling book, “The Color of Water,” was written while he lived in an apartment in Bethlehem.


  The book centers on how his mother, married to a black man, raised a family of achievers. When the children asked why she didn’t look like the other black mothers at the bus stop, she said she was “light-skinned.”


   She was a Jew, as McBride revealed in his beautiful book.


   She died last month.  I wrote to McBride:


  What a beautiful obituary The New York Times carried on your mother.


  How fortunate you were to have her quiet heroism of a life to be the groundwork of your literary career.


   P.S. The Spingarn Award given by the NAACP each year to the outstanding black in the nation is named for one or both Spingarn brothers who were among the founders of the NAACP. They were Jews.


  James McBride responded:


  Thank you for your kind words regarding my mother. Indeed, Jews have for years put their shoulders to the wheel in the civil rights struggle, in big ways and small.


  I wish more people were cognizant of that fact.



    Lois Brong Miller has repeated as an encore member. Encore members Pat and Howard Hudson and Nina Houghton both gave $250.


    New Life members are Barba-del Campbell (who unfortunately died before seeing her name listed here), retired staffer June McCracken and former public Librarian Mary Welch.


    Repeat Life members are Dr. Karen and Antonio Angello, Terri and Jim Bartholomew, Florence and Kenneth Benson, Susan and Larry Berman, former staffer Grace Bischoff, former staffer Connie and Dick Cowen, Mary and Richard Crusius, Nancy and James Dooley Jr.


  Also, Maureen and John Fernbacher, Kathleen and Bob Freed, Pat and David Hoffman, Nancy and Robert Jaeger, Susan and David Jones, author Sallie and David Keehn.


  Also, Isabel Kelemonick, Jan and Wilbur Kratz, Hiram Munger, former staffer LoisAnn Oakes, Phyllis and Judge Henry Perkin, former staffer Marion and Ted Schlack, Debbie and Mort Zelickson


   Edward S. Sebring has made a Life gift in memory of the Snelling brothers – William, Robert and Richard. This is the second Life gift Sebring has made for a member of the Snelling family.


  Note: If your address label has the word “Encore,” that means cumulatively you have given the Friends at least $1,000 since we kept records.





    With the retirement of Library Director Kathryn Stephanoff, there will probably be a flurry of Kathryn Stories – personal experiences that Library users, staffers and board members had with the director over her years.


   May I share one of mine?


   In the 1970s, when we lived in Southern Lehigh, my wife, Connie, was one of the founders and board members of the fledgling Southern Lehigh Public Library and I ran the fund drive for its first permanent building.


   We had a phenomenal response from the public. Soon construction was started – a Library built entirely with public gifts.


  That’s a long lead-in to a Kathryn Story.


  At about that time, Allentown Library Board was trying to raise money from the public for its new building at 12th and Hamilton.


  Henry Moggio, the board president and a dynamo for the fund drive, died unexpectedly. And with his death, the Library’s fund drive floundered.


  Viewing Southern Lehigh’s success, Kathryn asked me to take a look at the Allentown drive and make suggestions to the board.


  My subsequent report:


  1 – Though the campaign was months and months old, not everyone sitting around the board table had contributed to the drive.  Every board member should have given before asking for donations from others.


  2 – Get Gordon Fister to run the drive. He recently retired as promotions director at The Morning Call. He handled the tedious details of the Lehigh Valley Spelling Bee, Lehigh Valley Science Fair and the local Soap Box Derby for years. And he thought the world of Kathryn.


3 – “Don Miller won’t let you fail.” Don was the publisher of The Call, a giant promoter of the community and the one credited with picking the 12th and Hamilton spot for the new Library. He, too, thought the world of Kathryn.


  Well, the rest of the Library board quickly swung in with contributions.


  Fister agreed to come out of retirement to run the fund drive – for free. His lifetime in the community gave him knowledge of some substantial givers not yet contacted.


  On the wrap up day of the drive, Don pulled from his pocket pledges for six figures more in gifts.


   Just recently, under threat of extortion from my wife, I cleaned up the massive accumulations of paper on my desk and the surrounding area.


  Here, among the landfill was a July 28, 1977, thank you letter from Kathryn. She wrote:


  The Library Board has asked me to express their appreciation for your analysis of their fund-raising efforts and for your constructive suggestions as to increasing effectiveness.


  They found your observations to be sound, penetrating (not to say painful!) and helpful and they very much appreciated the carefully considered effort behind your words.


  It is my understanding you do not have the time to devote to directing any part of the campaign, but that you are willing to help with suggestions and behind-the-scenes work as the occasion arises.


  A board meeting to discuss the problems you identified is scheduled for Friday. I’ll let you know what is decided.


I must tell you how much I appreciated your advice – very much! 





  Richard Cowen, president and Newsletter editor

  Janice Williams, vice president

  Rev.  Theodore Schlack, secretary  

  David Beazley, treasurer





  Donald Bernhard, board president.

  David Bausch, vice president.

  Trevor Jackson, Allentown School District business                    manager.

   Jeff Glazier, representing the Allentown School   Board.

  Randy Soriano, Salisbury Township manager.

  Eric Butz.

  Norma Cusick.

  Holly Eddinger.

  Carol Watters







  Library Board President Donald Bernhard asked to meet with the Friends officers to hear our suggestions on the selection of a new Library Director.


   It was a particularly constructive session and Bernhard seemed receptive to our ideas. Those included:


n      All personnel policies should be in writing.


n      Treatment of employees should be uniform.


n      Also hire a business manager to run the business side of the operation.


n      Have at least one staffer highly skilled in computer technology.


n      The Library Board and its Search Committee should reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the Library’s patrons.


n      Have a director interested in preserving the Library’s history.


    Bernhard reported the Library has received 15 responses to its ads for a new director.  


   Next step would be interviews by phone. Those conversations would determine who will be invited for an interview before the entire Search Committee.


   Earlier, Bernhard said that Interim Director Renee Haines has the qualifications to be a candidate. 

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