When Eunice Friedman moved to Hudson in 1972, she hardly expected to dedicate over 40 years’ service to the Hudson Library and Historical Society. "It just sort of happened," says Friedman, now vice-president of the Friends of the Library and co-ordinator of the group’s five weekly book sales.
"Almost the first thing I did was get a library card. Then I found myself talking to the volunteer coordinator, and finally I found myself behind a sales desk. The rest is, as they say, history."
Her involvement in libraries goes back to grade school. "My mother didn’t drive, so as soon as I could ride a bicycle at age 7, I pedaled off to the local library." A contrast to today’s five-star Hudson facility, this small library in Cheltenham, P. — a suburb of Philadelphia — was actually just the upper floor of a mansion gifted to the county to be used as a library and museum.
"The downstairs was full of exotic stuff, like a suit of armor. The upstairs was the book collection that I raided once a week," she said.
As one of 10 children, Friedman notes that there was little money for books, so the library was her treasure trove.
"From first grade, I read all the time."
While her classmates were paging through classic comic books at best, Friedman spent the summers sitting under a tree by the driveway, happily reading. "After chores, of course."
Christmas and birthdays brought a coveted Nancy Drew mystery or Cherry Ames nurse’s tale for her shelves.
"I actually became a nurse’s aide in high school and later a nurse," she said.
The local book space was also a kind of refuge.
"The librarians were friendly and helpful; it was quiet; we were taught manners. The atmosphere was wonderful."
Despite a busy family life, her attraction to libraries never waned. In the 60s, when her physician husband was in military service in a small town south of Stuttgart, Germany, she managed to discover the base library: a one-floor space holding mostly fiction.
"The GIs read comic books they bought at the PX. There weren’t a lot of serious readers around, but I could at least get books," she said.
In Hudson, Friedman soon became a member of the Friends board and took over the group’s book sales in the old library on Aurora Street, where the Burton D. Morgan Foundation now sits.
"It was pretty modest at first. We had a small room in the basement and only 4 or 5 volunteers to sort books and staff the twice-monthly sales," Friedman recalls. "We were lucky to take in $150 for an all-day sale."
But from small beginnings, the sales took off. Soon, there was a long line to get in, and the tiny room was always crowded. "We could barely shoehorn in 10 patrons at a time, so there was a liberal use of elbows," Friedman remembers. "If the fire marshal had seen it, he’d have thrown a fit."
Buyers got very territorial: one even put a paper "sold" sign on his pile of purchases to fend off the competition.
What started as a simple love for books and libraries became a watertight commitment. Despite having three small children at home — ages 3, 5, and 7 — Friedman made the time to serve the Friends. Not only did the sales help the library, but she found a lot of satisfaction in interacting with fellow bookworms.
"It’s quite an experience to see the same faces year after year," she feels. "I might see the same woman buying books year after year, from the days of her first pregnancy until her kids were in high school. I love helping people find books and seeing what they read."
Today, the Friends’ 20 monthly sales draw in about $2,500, almost all of which goes directly to the library to purchase books and materials and to support programs, such as April’s Apollo’s Fire concert. The group even contributes to the Brewster café. Each month, the Friends volunteers chalk up over 400 hours of work and last year contributed $27,000 to the library.
"It’s a long way from a small, crowded room in the basement," Friedman said.
People often ask her why she has donated so much time over the years; they ask what she gets out of it. "I don’t understand why you have to ‘get’ something—like a fruit basket or theater tickets—for doing something worthwhile," she said. "I don’t want anything. I want everything we take in to go to the cause."