Throwback Thursday – Friends of the Montauk Library Book Fair

Photo collage of Book Fair volunteers, ca. 1996-1998:  Starting in the top left-hand corner: Mary (last name unknown), Angela Lambriola, Robert Schorr, Christine Langerfeld, Judith Rade, Bob Mautschke, June (last name unknown), Charlotte Schorr, Eileen Mautschke, Doris and Frank Donahue, Suzanne Gosman, and Elaine Kahn

Photograph of Bob-e Metzger, Chairperson of the Friends’ Book Fair, looking over boxes in the storage area maintained by the organization, ca. 1990s

Photograph of Christine Langerfeld, President of the Friends of the Montauk Library in 2011, and Bob-e Metzger, smiling for the camera on the Montauk Green, ca. 2000s

As much as American flags and fireworks, the Friends of the Montauk Library Book Fair has long been a staple of the Fourth of July weekend. These photographs recall the event in its heyday, when an army of volunteers would commandeer the Village Green to sell books by the pound, as well as baked goods, plants, white elephant items, toys and children’s games, crafts and jewelry, refreshments, and much more.

The fair was started by community members to raise money to create a library — back when Montaukers still had to rely on visits from the Suffolk County bookmobile. Running for 35 years, the fair expanded to a point where it involved finding hundreds of volunteers, a pursuit led with determination by Bob-E Metzger, according to Sally Krusch, the current president of the Friends of the Montauk Library. The presence of about 90 volunteers was required at the cordoned-off fair premises alone, while others – in some years, they included U.S. Coast Guard officers – had to lug tons of books from the library to the Green.

The event attracted throngs of visitors during Montauk’s busiest holiday weekend and raised thousands of dollars each year, peaking around 2010.  By 2016, however, it had grown more difficult to find volunteers, parking had become problematic, and the fair seemed to have lost a bit of its community flavor. Now scaled back, it has been relocated to the Montauk Library, where parking is easier and there is far less book-moving to be done.

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Friends did not stage a book fair in 2020. Nor will there be one this Fourth of July, as the Montauk Library building is in the process of being renovated and expanded.

Ms. Krusch said the organization hopes to do “something particularly nice” in terms of a book fair next year, and that plans are also in the works for several events to celebrate the library’s reopening this fall.

Still, she said of the Fourth of July tradition on the Green, “I think it was a fabulous community event.”

by Virginia Garrison

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