Curley directs schoolhouse library in Feura Bush

FEURA BUSH — John Curley, the new director of the Feura Bush Neighborhood Library, is someone who steps up when needed.

His family, with two daughters and two sons, had moved to rural Feura Bush from Albany to homestead; they kept ducks, turkeys, chickens, sheep, goats, and bees.

In the mid-1980s, one of his daughters was in a Girl Scout troop that met in the Jerusalem Dutch Reformed Church.  When the troop’s leader left, none of the girls’ mothers were interested in taking over, so Curley stepped up.

Behind the old church on what was once a plank road and is now State Route 32 stands a one-room schoolhouse, built in 1885 at a cost of $1,100, and abandoned in 1929.

“Judith Wing was getting a library going in the schoolhouse, and the girls helped out,” Curley recalled of his troop.

The Feura Bush Neighborhood Association opened the library in 1987 and Wing served as its librarian until retiring this year.

“I would stop in and say ‘hi’ to Judith; she wanted to retire,” Curley recalled. “A few months later, she still hadn’t found anyone. A few months more, still nothing. No one was stepping up.”

So Curley did.

Curley, who is retired now, had a long career, beginning and ending as a teacher. He started as a teacher at the La Salle School in Albany, which helps troubled boys. He taught subjects ranging from English to science. “It was tough,” he said.

Curley went on to work for the State Education Department, spending 30 years there, primarily in school finance. He became a journalist, publishing largely in professional magazines, and was well known nationally for his expertise on school finance and the politics of education.

After Curley quit his job with the state, he went on to write for a newspaper he enjoyed reading, the Greene County News. He worked there from 2000 to 2006 and received a statewide award for his in-depth reporting on home schooling. Finally, he taught journalism at Columbia-Greene Community College where he helped students produce a newspaper.

Curley’s kids have grown and gone. His daughters, both teachers, live in Schenectady. One son is a lawyer in New York City and the other is a transportation planner in New Jersey.

He has time to oversee the library, which is open six hours a week: on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m., on Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m.

The library’s last annual report, for 2012, written by Wing, says, “Except for holidays and one bad storm, the library was open its normal six hours each week…had a total of 389 visits, and loaned out 322 books.”

The report also states, “Though there were some children who came during the year, the majority of visitors were retired people who enjoyed socializing as well as taking out books.”

It also notes about 45 people came to the library when it served as the headquarters for a tour of old houses and barns in Feura Bush for the Dutch Barn Preservation Society and the Hudson Valley Vernacular Architectural Society.

Wing notes the May sale raised $369 and thanks annual contributors Anne Olmstead and the Sons of the American Legion Post in Voorheesville as well as the town of New Scotland and the Reformed Church for electricity and the use of the building.

“We are blessed to have loyal and helpful volunteers,” Wing’s report concludes.

Curley gestured on Saturday afternoon to pint-sized chairs and a table in one corner of the library and said Wing was good at teaching children crafts.

He also notes that, in addition to one computer, the library has wireless Internet, which reaches about 100 feet from the building, so that patrons may use their laptops or other mobile devices.

Curley hopes to attract people to the library with some new offerings. He’s planning a session on Aug. 6, from 7 to 9 p.m., on choosing colleges.

He is also planning a Sept. 10 session on the “mystery and discoveries” of genealogy. Curley has researched his own family’s history — French on his mother’s side, and Irish and English on his father’s.

“Like most Americans, I’m a mongrel,” he said.

“A lot of people work. We’re trying to find the best time for kids to come to the library, maybe more on Saturday,” the new director speculated.

His overall goal, Curley said, is “just to get people more interested in the library.”

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