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March 24, 2004


    OSWEGO -- In his first history class at SUNY Oswego two years ago, Tim Nekritz chose the Oswego Public Library as the topic for his big research paper. When he wrote that "its ability to overcome obstacles throughout its rich past may be as interesting a story as anything on its shelves," little did he know that the story, the very one he was writing, would soon become a book on the library's shelves.

    "The Oswego Public Library: A History" was published last fall and was a best-seller at the River's End Bookstore in Oswego during the holiday season.

    "I was very flattered and happy when some of the trustees approached me about publishing it as a fund-raiser," said Nekritz, a part-time graduate student and full-time associate director of public affairs at the college.

    He donated his manuscript for publication, with the sales proceeds to help renovate the library. So far, the book has sold more than 130 copies, raising over $2,200 for the cause.

    "I am always hoping for something like this!" said Judy Wellman, who taught the online class in local history where Nekritz produced his paper. She said she has seen a few of her students' papers get published and many more of them make a positive difference for the community, from getting a building on a historic register to assembling collections of oral histories.

    So she was not surprised when Nekritz's paper made an impact. "This paper put together, for the first time, I think, an integrated history of the library, from the beginning to the present," she said.

    "It allowed us to see its origins in the idealism of Gerrit Smith and his fellow reformers of the mid-nineteenth century, the controversies that surrounded the building in the early twentieth century, as people no longer appreciated its architectural beauty, and the ongoing commitment that the people of Oswego have made to their library -- for its architectural value, as a symbol of equality for all people, and as the oldest library building in continuous use in New York State," said Wellman, who contributed an introduction to the book.

    As he was writing his paper in spring 2002, the library was enduring one of its funding crises, as library trustees debated whether to try to continue to maintain the nearly 150-year-old edifice or accept the school board's offer of its vacant Education Center. One of the trustees, Charles Young, contributed the final chapter of the published book, recounting the decision to stay in the Gerrit Smith building.

    Nekritz said he has a soft spot for libraries, as the son of and grandson of librarians. In Weedsport, "I spent a lot of my summers growing up in the library," he said. He saw his hometown library "moved from an old, interesting building to a modern nondescript building," he said. "I didn't like the idea of seeing this library do that, too."

    When Nekritz took part in two book signings last fall -- one at the library and one at River's End -- he met many people with their own fond memories of the Oswego library. "It reinforced the feeling I had going in that it was really a special feature of the city," he said.

    The book is available at the River's End Bookstore for $16.95.

- END -

Author with book at the Oswego Public Library

RIGHT AT HOME -- For a graduate class at SUNY Oswego, Tim Nekritz wrote a history of Oswego's public library that is now a book whose proceeds will help renovate the historic building. The author said he grew up spending summers in Weedsport's public library, where his mother and grandmother were librarians. Nekritz is associate director of public affairs at the college.

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