Last week, I had the fantastic opportunity to visit with all of the students at the Altamont Elementary School to talk about the Altamont Free Library’s Summer Reading Program. This year’s theme is Every Hero Has A Story and we spent a long time talking about all the different kinds of heroes we can encounter and all of the different superpowers we can have.

Laser vision, super strength, and the power of flight are super powers for sure, but so are creativity, responsibility, helpfulness, and empathy. This year’s summer reading program will shine a spotlight on heroes of every kind: Superheroes, book heroes, historical heroes, animal heroes, and especially on the heroes that we interact with every day — the police officers, firefighters, veterans, EMT’s, and community volunteers.

When we broaden our definition of what it means to be a hero, we can start to recognize heroism everywhere and potential heroism in everyone.

I hope that if you’ve got little heroes in your life you will join us on Wednesday, July 8, at 4 p.m., in Orsini Park for the official kickoff party for the summer reading program.

If your young folks come and sign up for the summer reading program, and they bring an old T-shirt they don’t mind getting some paint on, they can make their very own super hero costume, have a snack and join the Altamont Super Literacy League. It’s going to be a great time.

In the nearer term, here are a few cool things going on this week.

The Dojo

On Friday, June 26, at 6 p.m., our old friend Ryan Black will be back to lead our teen gaming program, The Dojo. From board games to card games to video games, we’ll have something for every high schooler (or near high schooler) to get into.


This month’s ever-popular Eat Around the World Potluck will focus on the food and drinks of Egypt. Last month’s Australia potluck was the largest group anyone can remember us having at a potluck, and if you’ve never attended before, this would be a great month to start.

Please join us at 6 p.m., on Monday, June 29, for this always fun event and please bring a dish to share. If you don’t have any Egyptian recipes in your recipe box, we’ve got a bunch of cookbooks that you can check out.

Running the River Concert

The always-popular free Summer Concert Series starts up at 7 p.m., on Tuesday, June 30. Join us in Orsini Park for Running the River a dynamic band whose unique blend of classic country, rock, folk, Irish, blues and fiddle tunes provides entertainment for all.

We’ve had Running the River in the past and they’ve always been well received. In the very (hopefully) unlikely event of rain, this and all of our other concerts will be relocated to the pavilion at Bozenkill Park. Next up, on July 7, we’ve got The Back 40 Band, performing both classic and contemporary country music. Come on down and bring your dancing shoes.

Tai Chi Lessons

After a bout of illness last week, Tai Chi classes are back on track. Tai Chi chuan (often simply called Tai Chi) is a form of Chinese Martial Arts used not for fighting but to encourage mental and physical relaxation. Please join us on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m., for the next four weeks for a series of free Tai Chi classes with Kyoshi Joe Mansfield.

Prior experience is not necessary and all ability levels are welcome. Please stop by or call the library at 861-7239 to register in advance. In the event of rain, the class will be held at village hall. 

Unfortunately, the Altamont Free Library had to postpone the Indian Music Caravan concert that had previously been scheduled for Monday, June 15, at 7 p.m., due to an injury to one of the musicians. We wish him a speedy recovery and we’ll let you know when we reschedule.

Tai Chi lessons

We’ve had a ton of interest in our Tai Chi classes, so sign up for them now. Tai Chi chuan (often simply called Tai Chi) is a form of Chinese martial arts used not for fighting but to encourage mental and physical relaxation. Please join us on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. from June 17 to July 22, for a series of free Tai Chi classes with Kyoshi Joe Mansfield. Prior experience is not necessary. All ability levels are welcome. Please stop by or call the library at 861-7239 to register in advance.

Father’s Day card craft

Father’s Day is coming up. Please join us on Thursday, June 18, at 4 p.m., to make a Father’s Day card that your dad or grandpa is sure to love. We’ll have all the materials you need to make a unique handcrafted gift for your favorite guy.

Chicken barbecue

Get your tickets now for our ever-popular chicken barbecue, with servings at 5 and 6 p.m., on Friday June 19.  Every ticket gets you a dinner, which includes a half chicken, baked potato, coleslaw, roll, drink, and brownie. There’s also a vegetarian option is available for pre-order, if you prefer. Once you’ve got your dinner, you can either take it home with you or spread out on the lawn in Orsini Park with your friends and neighbors.

Book discussion

Join the Penultimate Monday Book Group for a discussion of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby.” Set in the Roaring Twenties amidst all of the glitz and glamour of what Fitzgerald termed the Jazz Age, Gatsby is the classic story of Jay Gatsby a mysterious and wealthy man and the lengths he goes to, to win back his old flame. Whether you’ve read it before or not, join us on Monday, June 22, at 7 p.m., for what will no doubt be a great discussion.

Running the River Concert

Join us for the first of six free concerts in Orsini Park on consecutive Tuesdays through August 11. First up on Tuesday June 30, at 7 p.m., Running the River, a band whose unique blend of classic country, rock, folk, Irish, blues, and fiddle tunes provides entertainment for all. 

— Photo from Betsy Buchardt

Do it yourself: Cornell Cooperative Extension volunteers Ronnie Siegel and Virginia Dorwaldt show young Altamont Free Library patrons how to plant their own vegetables so that they can grow their own homemade salsa.

June is nearly upon us, and, by the time you read this, the Altamont Free Library’s June newsletter will be out. We’ve got a few really cool programs coming up in June that you should have on your calendar.


First up, we’ve got a concert by Indian Music Caravan on Monday, June 15. Indian Music Caravan is a nationally renowned mother-son duo who perform classical and folk music of India on sitar and tablas. We’re very excited to be able to host them and we hope that you’ll join us for this free event.

Tai Chi classes

Second, we’ll be holding free Tai Chi classes in Orsini Park starting Wednesday, June 17. Led by Kyoshi Joe Mansfield, these classes will demonstrate the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi which is known for its meditative and therapeutic nature. No experience is necessary and beginners and experienced practitioners are encouraged to attend!

Chicken barbecue

The third thing to know about in June is our famous annual chicken barbecue fund-raiser on Friday, June 19. This highly anticipated event offers library trustees and volunteers the opportunity to play Top Chef for you all. We’ll also be breaking out the library’s chicken costume for the occasion. We’ve already had a ton of people in at the library asking for tickets, which will be available starting this week or early next week.

In the nearer term, here are a few neat things happening this week.

The Dojo

On Friday, May 29, our old friend Ryan Black will be back to lead out teen gaming program, The Dojo at 6 p.m. From board games to card games to video games, we’ll have something for every high schooler or near high schooler to get into.

Book discussion

Did you know that New York wasn’t always New York? It’s true: Before the British came along and took control of the colony, much of New York State, including the entire Capital District was New Netherland.

The First Monday book discussion group will meet at noon on June 1st to discuss “The Island at the Center of the World” by Russell Shorto. This history of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam on the island of Manhattan puts into new perspective the early history of the most important city on Earth. Based on research done by local scholar Charles Gehring, this book should provoke a fascinating conversation. Please join us.

Australian potluck

We usually hold our Eat Around the World Potluck on the last Monday of the month, but since that was Memorial Day, the May potluck is being held on June 1 at 6 p.m. This month we’ll be sampling the cuisine of Australia.

There don’t seem to be many Australian cookbooks in the library system, so you might have to reach out to your favorite Aussie to learn their recipes. Join us, won’t you? Bring a dish to share.


To judge by last week’s temperatures, we’ve skipped from a long winter right into an early summer. The calendar assures me, however, that it’s still the springtime, and what better to do in the springtime than a little bit of gardening? The Altamont Free Library has a great event coming up soon that will allow children ages four to eight to do just that.

Grow your own salsa

Have you ever made food from your own freshly grown vegetables? Every wanted to try it? Next week, here at the library, you can. We’ll have two great volunteers from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Virginia Dorwaldt and Ronnie Siegel, leading a program based on the book “Chicks and Salsa” by Aaron Reynolds where participants will learn all about growing the vegetables that go into making our food!

Then, you’ll pick vegetables that Virgina and Ronnie have grown and turn them into a delicious homemade (or, actually, library-made) salsa. We’ll be running the program two times: First on Monday, May 18, from 10 to 11 a.m., and then again on Thursday, May 21, from 4 to 5 p.m. Each session will be limited to seven children, so please call the library at 861-7239 to sign up for either session. Better yet, sign up in person and check out a copy of “Chicks and Salsa” while you’re here.

Encore orientation

We’ve heard a lot of frustration with the library’s new online system, which, believe me, the library staff very much shares. On Thursday May 14, at 6 p.m., we’ll be holding an orientation to our new online catalog called Encore. Whether you’d like to reserve items or check your account from home, use our brand new databases or just browse for your next movie, CD or book, we’ll cover everything that the system can allow you to do.

Please bring your library card, or at least have your card number memorized, and join us for this enlightening event.

Book discussion

On Monday, May 18, at 7 p.m., the Penultimate Monday Book Group will be meeting to discuss “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. This classic, which has been called “the greatest war novel of all time,” is another in our series of books that many of us read in high school or were supposed to read in high school but didn’t that we’re revisiting as mature readers.

With the 100th anniversary of the events described in the book upon us, it seems to be as good a time as any to tackle it. Please join us for what will no doubt be a great conversation.

Australian Potluck

We usually hold our Eat Around the World Potluck on the last Monday of the month, but since that would be Memorial Day, the May potluck will be held on June 1, at 6 p.m. This month we’ll be sampling the cuisine of Australia.

We’ve already heard a lot of jokes and stories about eating kangaroo. I don’t know if anyone will be making kangaroo, but I do know that we’re probably the only library in America whose director has to wonder whether or not that will happen in his library.

Join us, won’t you? Bring a dish to share. 

— Photo by Joe Burke

Tiny world: For Earth Day, a recycled jar became a terrarium at the Altamont Free Library.

— Photo by Joe Burke

Fun at the library: Altamont library trustee Christine Capuano enjoys helping kids make terrariums; the craft project was led by Christine Carpenter.


In some ways, a library is like a garden and, just as every good garden requires care and maintenance, so does a library. One of the most important aspects of maintaining a library, also like a garden, is weeding, which is what we call it when we remove items that no longer are in heavy demand from our collection.

The difference between weeding a garden and a library is that you wouldn’t want to keep weeds in your garden under any circumstances. On the other hand, if we had an infinite amount of shelf space, we’d have no reason to remove books from our collection whether there was interest in those titles or not.

But we don’t have infinite space or anything remotely close to it. Once a year, therefore, the Altamont Free Library identifies items that haven’t been checked out in the past three years and we remove many of them from the collection.

So, our shelves may look a bit more bare for a little while, but rest assured that we’ll be bringing in new titles to fill those shelves up again.

The good news is that you’ll have an opportunity to peruse the titles that we’re letting go of at our annual book sale this Saturday. We’re also gladly accepting donations of good condition books, audio books, CDs, and DVDs for the sale.

If we can add them to our collection, we surely will. If not, we’ll sell them to raise money for the library.

We will also be holding a garage sale in conjunction with the book sale and will be glad to accept donations of any household items in good condition that you might be willing to part with for a good cause. We could also use a few volunteers to help us run the book and garage sales on Saturday. We hope to see you all on Saturday.

Book discussion

The first Monday book group will meet at noon on Monday, May 4, to discuss “The Children Act” by Ian McEwan. This new novel touches on several issues that have been widely debated recently, including the intersection of religious faith and modern medicine and the ability of young adults to make their own health care decisions. Please join us for what will undoubtedly be a fascinating conversation.

Spring bird walk take 2

On Thursday, May 7, our own Dan Capuano will once again lead a bird watching expedition along Brandle Road. Our April excursion was a hoot, but a bit on the chilly side.

We hope that the weather will be nicer for our next outing, when Dan tells us that the orioles will be back from their winter down south. Please join us as we meet up at the library at 9 a.m. for this fun and educational hour-long walk.

Art and collections

Over the next few weeks, the library will be unveiling a new art display system in our community room. The new system will allow us to professionally and securely display art and we’d love to display yours.

If you are an artist and would like to display your work at the library, please get in touch with Joe Burke at 861-7239 to discuss scheduling a showing. Likewise, if you’ve got a cool collection you’d like to show off, please consider letting us show it in our display case. Thanks!