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Hundreds turn out for Altamont library benefit

When Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy was 10 years old, he got his first library card.

From then on, the North Albany native always had books checked out of the Pruyne Branch of the Albany Public Library.

I was able to enter a large world of the imagination, said Kennedy who vividly remembers picking John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and Jack London's "The Call of the Wild" off the shelves in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

"I wasn't born into money, but I had the great fortune as a boy to be taken around the world by the books I read," he said. "Without the library, I would have never been a writer or newspaperman; I'd probably be working some menial job somewhere."

Kennedy is a former journalist and the author of the acclaimed "Albany Cycle," which includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Ironweed." He is also the founder and director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University of Albany.

In his spare hours, when he isn't working as a novelist, historian or educator, Kennedy finds time for "his causes."

On Saturday, Feb. 9, Kennedy co-chaired a fundraiser for the Altamont Free Library called "I Love My Library" with Altamont author and retired priest Father Joseph Girzone.

The fundraiser was held to raise money for renovations to the historic train depot that will eventually hold the library's books. The event raised more than $10,000, according to Judith Lynes, director of the Altamont Free Library.

The money will pay for a new roof and to make the building handicap accessible. Library officials said they have to replace the current slate roof on the building to maintain its zoning as a historic site.

Currently, the library's stacks are located in a basement in the Key Bank building, making it hard for disabled residents to access it.

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