October 2014 Bookmark: Once Upon a Novel Night: How the Library’s Major Fundraiser Began

October 2014 Bookmark: Once Upon a Novel Night: How the Library’s Major Fundraiser Began

For those who have lived in Pelham for some time, Novel Night is filled with expectation, an exciting every-other-year event in which hundreds of residents participate—whether hosting one of several dozen novel-themed dinners, spending hours coming up with the perfect costume, or heading straight to the after-party at the New York Athletic Club. Produced by the Friends of the Town of Pelham Public Library, it will all happen again— for the eleventh time—on Saturday, Nov. 15.

But before old timers and newcomers get ready for this great night on the town, here’s the story of 20 years ago, on Saturday, Nov. 19, 1994. It’s a reminder of just how keenly the town wanted its own library, and some of what it took to make one happen. It has involved intrepid volunteers, sheep, water-filled driveways—and a cameo appearance by I-95.

The Friends of the Not-Yet Library
The Friends had been formed with the mission to raise approximately $1.7 million to buy a building, renovate it, and purchase books to add to the collection in the Village of Pelham Library that was being merged into the new Town Library. The group raised almost $2 million and in 1995 the current Town Library opened with a major celebration. Taxpayer funds would be used for ongoing support. (Then, as now, municipal budgets were squeezed, and building a library using taxpayer money was out of the question.)

As the first Novel Night approached in 1994, renovation of what had been the First Church of Christ, Scientist, was underway but not completed, and additional funds for the Library still needed to be raised.

The Pelham residents who led the fundraising effort. were Lorri Gorman, the late Vic Henningsen and the late Jim Nicholson. The two women who were in charge of Novel Night itself were Joan Morgan, who has a professional background in fundraising, and Chris Emerson.

The first Novel Night was to be the final step in a three-step financing plan, or, as Mrs. Gorman said, “the last push and a celebration, at the same time.” Ms. Morgan said, “We wanted to create a fundraising evening that was really fun and memorable but had a literary component.”

The event came after more than a year of small, neighborhood educational sessions, followed by one-on-one meetings and a door-to-door campaign that canvassed every home in Pelham during one Saturday in April 1994. With Novel Night, the Friends envisioned an event that could attract a broad spectrum of town residents. Though tickets for the entire evening were higher-priced than any preceding fundraiser in the town’s history, the after-party was designed to bring in people at a lower price point. One reason the dinners were held in people’s homes was so that more money would go directly to the Library, and, the hosts of each dinner were—and still are —carefully guarded so that people gathered around a book rather than their close friends.

The Event Without a Name Becomes “Novel Night”
But as planning continued, the event still needed a name. Then, one day, while driving from work in Stamford down I-95—on her way to yet another meeting about the Library—Mrs. Emerson, an English literature major, came up with the alliterative title “A Novel Night in November.” Novel Night was born.

Seven hundred people came to the original Novel Night, and $100,000 was raised. Mrs. Emerson went from dinner party to dinner party that first time to make sure everything was going smoothly. (She took on the task herself because Ms. Morgan was close to giving birth.) It was such a huge success that she admits she was worried whether the event would be sustainable in future years. She recalls stopping at the dinner with the theme “Lonesome Dove” and seeing live sheep in the host’s front yard. “The lengths that people went to the first year almost scared us,” she said.

Anyone who has been to a subsequent Novel Night knows those fears were unwarranted. Mrs. Gorman recounted the time some hosts flooded their driveway so it could support a gondola and another time when dinner guests were taken to the NYAC in horse-drawn carriages.

No matter what each Novel Night is like, the event remains an essential fundraiser for the Library, and the Friends contribute the second largest amount of money (after the Town) to fund the Library’s needs. Money from Novel Night supports numerous things that make the Library the wonderful town resource it is—such as its new web site.

Notes on This Year’s Novel Night
By now, every household in Pelham should have received an invitation to Novel Night. Dinner themes run from Stephen King’s “Carrie” to P.G. Wodehouse’s “Right Ho, Jeeves” to George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones.” The deadline for RSVPs is this Sunday, Sept. 28. Invitations can also be picked up at the Library or downloaded at pelhamnovelnight.com.

For $50, you can also purchase a raffle ticket—which is included in the invitation and also available for download at the site—for a drawing to win a trip for two from Bayside Travel. It includes two nights at Paris’ Plaza Tour Eiffel, three nights at London’s Rubens at the Palace, two tickets to London theatre, a custom-designed “experience” and $500 in pocket money. Raffle tickets will also be available at the after-party. For more information about Novel Night, go to the event web site and click on “Contact.”



As noted above, the latest example of something the Friends have funded is the Library’s new website, which launched two weeks ago.

What will you find when you go to the new pelhamlibrary.org? A visually oriented front page with more up-to-date Library news, an expanded calendar section, and overall, a more user-friendly design. Behind the scenes, the new site is easier to update, which will make it a more timely look at what’s going on at the Library.



Children’s Programs—
Storytime: Tuesdays for ages 3-5, 10:30-11:00am; Wednesdays, two and under, 10:30-11:00am. Attendance is limited to the first 40 people who sign in, children and caregivers included. Sign-in begins at 10:15am.

Practice for “The Battle of the Books”: Mondays, Sept. 29 and Oct. 6 and Thursday, Oct. 16, 6:30pm. Registered members of the Pelham Page Turners need to report for practice. The Battle will take place on Saturday, Oct. 18 at Scarsdale Middle School.

Adult Programs—
Adult Book Club: Thursday, Oct. 2, 7:30pm The Club will discuss “Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour” by Lynne Olson. It’s the story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, from the perspective of CBS News’ Edward R. Murrow; Averell Harriman, who ran FDR’s Lend-Lease program in London; and John Gilbert Winant, the U.S. ambassador to Britain. In November, the Club will discuss “The Island Beneath the Sea” by Isabelle Allende.

WEBS Job Interview Workshop: Monday, Oct. 20, 7:30-8:30pm. In the hunt for a job and need some interview tips? Come to this free workshop, conducted by a professional counselor, who will help you understand the latest trends in interviewing, including how to handle behavior-based questions, how to avoid the most common interview mistakes and how to overcome your fears and develop confidence to manage the process. WEBS is the Westchester Library System’s Career & Educational Counseling Service. Registration is suggested.

Talk with Pelham’s Rich Zahradnik, author of the new crime novel Last Words: Monday, Nov. 3, 7:30pm.His debut novel is a murder mystery set in the crime-ridden New York City of 1975; it’s the first in a four-book series being published by Camel Press, featuring Coleridge Taylor, a down-on-his-luck newsman. In “Last Words,” Taylor winds up on a hit list while he’s trying for a fresh start in journalism. Books will be on hand for buying and signing. Registration is not required.

Individualized Computer and Device Instruction: Call the Library to make an appointment for individualized instruction in popular computer programs or bring your device and get started with free apps that give library patrons access to free e-books, e-audiobooks, e-music and more.

(All Library programs are free and open to the public. To sign up for programs that require pre-registration, call the Library at 738-1234. Out of courtesy to fellow attendees, please be on time.)



Columbus Day Closing: The Library will be closed on Monday, Oct. 13 in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

Free Tickets to Katonah Museum of Art: The Library still has free tickets for admission to this renowned Westchester art museum.


(Bookmark is reprinted from The Pelham Weekly, Friday, September 26, 2014, Page 9. Used by permission.)

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