Largest single gift of books in Library’s 104-year history

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Sophie Greenfield and her sons.

Sophie Greenfield and her sons.

“I just hope I have enough time to read them all.”

That’s what Sophie Bruckner Greenfield told her sons Russell and Michael, referring to her personal collection of more than 20,000 books.

Sophie Greenfield died August 29, 2008. Knowing that’s what their mother would have wanted Russell and Michael recently gave the Public Library her entire collection. It is the largest single gift of books in the Library’s 104 year history.

“Books were her babies”, says her son, Charlotte physician Russell Greenfield. “She had an unquenchable love of and desire for knowledge for its own sake. Even at age 86 she had a child like sense of wonder and awe for books and writers…….from Homer to Shakespeare to Twain. From classic literature to poetry to contemporary fiction…..she loved it all.”

Russell remembers his mother reading Foucault’s Pendulum with a dictionary at her side. “Isn’t that a grueling way to read that book?”, Russell asked. “On the contrary, she replied, this is sheer joy”.

Raised by working class parents in the Bronx one of her happiest moments growing up was when she was allowed to use the grown up section of her public library. Sophie’s parents could not afford to send her to college. It was much later in life, as a wife and mother of two children, that Sophie got  the chance to go to college.

She took care of her family during the day and went to classes at Norwalk Community College and the Bridgport University in the evening. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in English.

Later in life she enjoyed reading and discussing books with friends. “The companionship of a book club was nice but what she really enjoyed was talking about the book she and these friends read together”, says Russell. And one of the saddest things about losing her husband of forty five years was losing that special someone to read with.

The library is deeply grateful to Sophie Greenfield and her two sons for this thoughtful and generous contribution.

This collection of books will be the basis for the Library’s largest book sale ever, happening next weekend, October 15-17. Proceeds will be used to buy much needed new material for the Library. Her collection will find new homes and the library will benefit. We think she’d be very happy knowing that.

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