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State honors Mary Anne Braunbach as outstanding library ‘friend’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Mary Anne Braunbach has been influential in planning and raising money for the new Hoag Library, and helping with numerous other projects at the old and new Albion public libraries.

ALBION – When she was 6 years old, Mary Anne Braunbach would ride her red bike with a basket to Swan Library. She lived a few blocks away on West Academy Street.

Braunbach would take out three books and then head home. She remembers climbing the steep sandstone steps at the front of the library, and then facing the imposing entrance.

“It took everything I had to open that big front door,” she recalled.

By age 7, she would spend two hours most mornings at the library during the summer.

“I just liked to go there, read books and bum around,” Braunbach said.

She went on to work more than three decades as a teacher and librarian in the Newfane school district in Niagara County. She moved from Lockport back to her hometown 18 years ago and soon joined the Swan Library Board of Trustees.

Braunbach has served on the board for 15 years. There was one gap in that stretch. The former board president wasn’t re-elected amidst controversy in the community over where to build the new library.

But Braunbach didn’t let that election loss push her away from the library. She took a year off from the board and re-energized the Friends of Swan Library, planning several events and raising money for the new Hoag Library.

Braunbach’s volunteer commitment to Albion’s public library has attracted the attention of the Library Trustees Association of New York State. The organization last month presented her with the “Outstanding Friends Award,” a state-wide honor.

“She’s done so much for the library,” said Susan Rudnicky, director of the Hoag Library. “Even after there was a change in the board, she kept going. She has worked so hard for the library for a bunch of years.”

Braunbach has since been elected back on the board. Her current term as a library trustee is about to expire. She was ready to step back from the board. But only one candidate ran for four open seats on the library board last month.

Braunbach has agreed to serve one more year. She wants to see some younger people serve on the board, so the organization has their viewpoints and there is leadership in the future for Albion’s public library.

Braunbach and the Friends committed to raising $25,000 for the new Hoag. The group has a room in its honor, which is uses to sell used books and books by local authors. The Friends also sells candy, coffee and has a plant sale. Proceeds are donated back to the library.

The Friends group is raising $12,500 for the library, while Braunbach is matching that money.

She owns a historic downtown building by the canal. Her late father Joseph DeCarlo used that building to run a hardware store. He also was in the plumbing and heating business.

Braunbach lives in a cobblestone house on Densmore Street from 1830 with her husband Ken.

She has been busy this week with the Friends group. She is helping to organize the annual chair auction. Those chairs are painted by local artists and will be sold during the Strawberry Festival.

She also is taking an inventory and pricing items from the Swan. Some of the old collectibles and antiques will be sold during the festival.

“I’ve been a friend of the library since I was 5,” Braunbach said.