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Reading for life

Sinclairville Library celebrating 150th anniversary

OBSERVER Photo by Natasha Matteliano Beth Hadley, director, and her assistant Jessica Huling pose next to a castle made for the library by volunteer Michael Minckler.

SINCLAIRVILLE — The Sinclairville Free Library is celebrating its 150th birthday, making it the oldest library association in Chautauqua County.

On Feb. 4, 1870, the Rev. Elbridge P. McElroy of the Congregational Church founded the Sinclairville Library Association. He did this by donating 185 volumes from his private library and $25. He declared the donation to be “to encourage the youth of Sinclairville and vicinity to form good habits and a taste of reading and to promote the mental improvements of all in said place.”

Since then, the library has physically moved to many locations before settling in it current building 20 years ago. The county is working on a history of the library to be shared with the public coming soon.

Before COVID-19, the library had been holding several clubs, groups and outside organizations in its building. For example, the library used to hold weekly book clubs, needlepoint clubs and child play hours. Unfortunately, that traffic flow has slowed greatly because of the cancellations of the groups.

“We do still hold the clubs and groups online through Zoom and other platforms,” said Beth Hadley, library director. “This is a great way to continue these and stay in touch, but it has had an effect on how many people we see in a day here.”

The Rev. Elbridge P. McElroy founded the Sinclairville Library Association in 1870.

Through the pandemic, the library has partnered with the school and the Cassadaga-Stockton Library to try to come up with ideas, survey and execute what would be best for kids and adults through these times. They ended up deciding on take and make craft kits for the kids, where they can take a baggie and build a craft at home, online book clubs, journal clubs and writing groups.

“Libraries seemed to have been forgotten about through this crisis,” she said. “We had to pave the way for ourselves and decided to team up with other organizations to make it easier for all of us. I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job so far. We just miss seeing all of the people so much”

The libraries have used mini grants, which have been provided from the Chautauqua Cattaraugus Library System to fulfill the needs for activities.

Hadley wanted to remind those to support local libraries in any way they can. The library depends on the community and their volunteers to allow them to continue serving the community. Whether it be joining a group or donating some money, anything helps.

To learn about the many groups and clubs they have available, visit sinclairvillelibrary.org and their Facebook page, Sinclairville Free Library for updates.

Though this year has been a struggle, Hadley explained that she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“I am very fortunate to be here, it’s just a bummer we can’t have a celebration,” she said. “We were planning so many fun activities to celebrate our birthday, but it will just have to wait until we can have gatherings again.”

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