Friends of Folsom

Friends of Folsom

The Friends of the Folsom Library is a service organization comprised of Rensselaer faculty, staff, alumni, retirees, and interested community members dedicated to enriching the collections, services, and events provided at the Folsom Library.

The generosity of the Friends supports a collection of best-selling fiction and non-fiction, a browsing collection of popular magazines, and an outstanding collection of DVDs. They also underwrite the maintenance of attractive plantings and provide lounge furniture throughout the Folsom Library as well as sponsor occasional exhibits and events, such as talks by local authors. In partnership with the Rensselaer Retirees Forum, the Friends co-sponsor monthly Lunch & Learn presentations on interesting topics during the academic year.

Besides the satisfaction of participating in a service organization that actively supports library programs, members of the Friends enjoy borrowing privileges to the Folsom Library’s and the Architecture Library's general collection books, the Class of '96 Reading Room best sellers and travel books, CD recordings, movie DVDs, plus a subscription to the Friends' newsletter, Folsom Library Unabridged. Members can also avail themselves of the millions of books accessible from the Connect NY consortium and its special expedited borrowing program via the Library's online catalog.

Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of Folsom Library, The Chronicle of Higher Education is now available to the entire campus community via RensSearch. Click here for access!

Support the Friends of the Folsom Library

To support the Friends of the Folsom Library using a credit card, visit

To support the Friends of the Folsom Library using a check, please make the check payable to “Rensselaer” with “Friends of the Folsom Library" in the memo section and send to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Gifts Processing Center, P.O. Box 3164, Boston, MA 02241-3164.

Friends of Folsom Board of Directors

Ms. Paula Bentley (Chair-elect, retired Alumni Relations/Advancement Officer)

Dr. Charles Boylen (Chair, Emeritus, Professor of Biology)

Mr. John Dojka (Institute Archivist/Head of Special Collections at Rensselaer)

Dr. Ellen Esrock (Associate Professor, Communication and Media at Rensselaer)

Mrs. Ruth Gallagher (former Director of Purchasing at Rensselaer)

Mrs. Margaret Gallien (Alumni News Editor at Rensselaer)

Mr. Rick Hartt, B.S. '70 (immediate Past Chair, former Director of the Rensselaer Union)

Mr. John Kolb, B.S. '79 (Vice President for Information Services at Rensselaer)

Dr. Barbara Lewis, Ph.D '99 (Clinical Professor, Communication and Media at Rensselaer)

Mr. Jeffrey Miner, B.S. '78 (Assistant Vice President for Information Services at Rensselaer)

Mr. Peter Pedone ( retired Associate Advancement Officer in Rensselaer's Office of Alumni Relations)

Dr. Andrew White (Director for Library Information Services at Rensselaer)

Ms. Gillian Moser (Student Representative)

Mr. Benji Prashker (Student Representative)


Organization By-Laws



1.1 The name of the organization shall be Friends of the Folsom Library (Friends).

1.2 The Friends is a membership service organization affiliated with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


The mission of the Friends shall be to:

a. Enhance the Library’s collections, facilities and services for Rensselaer students, faculty, and staff, as well as the Capital District community at large beyond the Institute’s library budget.

b. Enhance community understanding of the functions of the Library and demonstrate its potential as a resource.

c. Sponsor and support programs and initiatives that demonstrate, promote, complement, and enrich the library as an essential strategic component in Rensselaer's objectives in research, education and innovation.

d. Encourage support for future advancement of the Library operations.


3.1 The Friends shall be governed by a Board of Directors (Board).

3.2 The Board shall be comprised of:

a. Chair

b. Chair-Elect

c. Past Chair

d. Elected or reappointed Directors – minimum of 4

e. Student(s) – minimum of 1

f. Director of the Libraries

g. Institute Archivist

h. Assistant VP for Information Services

i. VP for Information Services

3.3 All Board members shall be voting members.

3.4 A quorum shall be a majority of Board members present.

3.5 The term for all Board members shall be four years.

3.6 Directors may be reappointed by the Chair to consecutive terms.

3.7 Whenever possible, Directors shall be selected to represent the following groups: alumni, faculty, staff, parents of students, retirees, and citizens of the local community. Nomination of candidates for Director shall be made by Board members and either (a) submitted to the Chair prior to the Board meeting or (b) submitted at a Board meeting. The Chair shall have the discretion to seek approval either at a Board meeting or via an electronic vote.

3.8 Student Director(s) may be nominated by the Grand Marshall or by the Board Chair based on suggestions from current Board member(s). Nomination(s) must be approved by the Board.

3.9 The Chair-Elect shall be approved by the Board every two years.

a. At the conclusion of the two-year term, the Chair-Elect shall succeed as Chair.

b. Should the Chair-Elect succeed the Chair for a partial term (or otherwise leave the office of Chair-Elect vacant prior to completion of his/her term), a new Chair-Elect shall be approved by the Board at its next regular meeting. The new Chair-Elect shall complete the partial term and serve an additional term as Chair-Elect.

c. Should the Chair-Elect be unable or unwilling to complete his/her term of office, a new Chair-Elect shall be nominated by the Chair and approved by the Board at its next regular meeting. The new Chair-Elect shall serve as Chair upon the completion of the Chair’s term.

3.10 The Chair shall succeed from the office of Chair-Elect.

a. The Chair shall serve a two-year term.

b. Should the Chair be unable or unwilling to complete his/her term of office, the Chair-Elect shall complete the current term on his/her behalf and shall serve one additional term as Chair.

3.11 Central administration and coordination for the Friends shall be conducted from the Folsom Library, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 8th Street Street, Troy, NY 12180.


4.1 A Friends member shall be any individual or organization who annually donates to the Folsom Library.

4.2 Membership in the Friends shall be for a period of one year from receipt of donation. Tracking of donations shall be the responsibility of the Library Administration Office.


5.1 The Board shall hold meetings at least twice each year, in the spring and fall.

5.2 Board meeting dates shall be set by the Chair at the start of his/her term.

5.3 Board attendance must include at least 50 per cent of Board members.


6.1 Announcements and other communications can be made to Board members via e-mail.

6.2 E-mail utilization can be informational and/or for voting purposes at the discretion of the Chair.

6.3 For e-mail voting, a majority of the Board members must approve the recommendation in order to proceed.

6.4 Board members must vote within three business days.

6.5 Status of e-mail communications and voting decisions will be included on the Agenda for the next scheduled Board meeting (Interim Actions) so that information and decisions are recorded in the minutes of the next Board meeting.


7.1 Library news can be located on the Library website

7.2 Announcements about new products and services can be found on the following websites: and


Committees may be created by the Chair and/or Board to address special issues, such as programming, nominating, and membership.


Under the leadership of the Board, the Friends will sponsor various events throughout each year that shall promote interest in libraries, books, authors, alumni achievements, and history.


10.1 Funds contributed specifically for the use of the Friends shall be maintained in designated Friends of the Folsom Library accounts by the Director of the Libraries for expenditures and investments.

10.2 Expenditure of funds up to $1000 shall be at the discretion of the Director of the Libraries.

10.3 Expenditure of funds greater than $1000 shall require approval of a majority of those Board members attending a meeting.

10.4 At each Board meeting, the Director of the Libraries shall present a report on the Friends’ budget and actual expenditures in the designated accounts.


11.1 Proposed amendments to the by-laws must be submitted to the Board at least two weeks prior to the meeting at which they are to be voted on.

11.2 Amendments to the by-laws must be approved by a majority of those Board members attending a meeting, which must include at least 50 per cent of the elected or reappointed Directors or voted on electronically in accordance with Article 6 of these By-Laws.

11.3 Amendments shall be announced in accordance with Article 7 above.


Recent Lunch and Learn Events

Sponsored by the Rensselaer Retirees Forum and Friends of Folsom Library


P. Thomas Carrol

"Charles Darwin: A Life in Science, 1809 - 1882"


Margaret Brodie and Suzanne Hagadorn

"Cancer Screenings--Common Myths and Facts"


Charles Carletta

"The Philosophy, History and Impact of the American Legal System: A Global Perspective -- Part 2"


Charles Carletta

"The Philosophy, History and Impact of the American Legal System: A Global Perspective -- Part 1"


Michael Sofka

"A Visit to the Land of Fire and Ice"


Michael Halloran

Stories of the Revolution, As Told on the Walls of the Saratoga Victory Monument"


Mark Bodnar

"Albany Rural Cemetery in the Civil War"


David Borton

"Solar Powered Cargo Boats--Design, Building, and Operation"


Michael Barrett

"The Hudson-Mohawk Region: Silicon Valley of the Nineteenth Century"


Jenna Peterson Riley

"The Mysteries of the Mabee Farm: Uncovering the Story of a 300 Year Old Farmstead"


Michael Oatman

"My Bibliomania: 30 Years of Art and Source Material"


Mike Sofka

"How to Ensure Your Email is Trapped as Spam"


Kathryn Sheehan

"Where Family and Friends Gathered in Song: The History of the Fox Hollow Folk Festival"


Dr. Paul Hohenberg

by Thomas Piketty"


Judith Barnes '71, '84

"Celebrating a Non-traditional Life"


William Gill '03, '11

"Photographing Trains at Night"


Don Bell

"Money Life$avers: What We All Need to Know About Money"


Zackery Belanger

"Case Studies in Acoustic Architecture"


Steve Muller

"Troy Iron and the USS Monitor"


Paul Stewart

“People of Courage, People of Hope, Seekers of Justice: The Underground Railroad Revisited”


Janice Naylor

"Going the Self-Publishing Route: One Woman's Journey"


Kenneth Miller

“Factors Leading to the American Civil War”


Bram van Heuveln

"Visual Reasoning: Visual Interfaces for Logical Reasoning"


Trudy J. Hanmer

"'Wrought With Steadfast Will' and The Historic Connections Between Emma Willard and Rensselaer"


Jim Bonesteel and Lawrence Howard

“Rensselaer Plateau Alliance"


Stacy Pomeroy Draper

“The Great Fire of Troy”


Jim Knowlton

“Athletics at RPI - An Inspiring Story!”


Chuck Boylen

“The Global Dilemma With Invasive Aquatic Species and the Present and Future Prospects for Lake George ”


Tom Whalen

“How Are You Using Linkedin? What’s New, What Works and Why Should I Care?”


Kathleen Helfrich '68, '96

"Amos Eaton's Land"


Brandon Graham

"Amateur Radio: A Beginning"


Bob Mayo

“Granville Hicks: The Man, His Books, and the Controversy”


Dr. Daniel Lewis

"Fuel Cells and Their Role in Electrochemical Energy Conversion"


Jim Evans

"Moving Toward the Light--One Family's Journey into Solar Power"


Sara Foss

"Good Stories Are Everywhere"


Edward Chevrette

"Wings of Fortune"


Dr. David Mendonca

"Fado: A View From Lisbon"


Dr. Fran Berman

"Sustaining an Information-Driven World"


Bob Mayo

“Citizen Weather Observer Program">



John L. Carey and Kelly Strack

“Crime Scene Investigations: Reality versus CSI"


Donna Wayner

“Hear What You've Been Missing: How to Prevent and Manage Hearing Loss"


Lee Sheldon

“How I Spent My Lifelong Vacation"



Don and Lois Porter

“Eleven Winters in Latin America”



Tom Ryan '63

“The Bow Bridge Project in Hadley, NY”



Dr. Roland Hummel

“My Years with George Rickey”



Dr. Evan Douglis

“Digital Alchemy”



Amy Williams

“The Arts Center of the Capital Region”



Michael Wacholder

“The Historic Dutch Barn at the Rensselaer Technology Park”



Dr. Michael Halloran

“Mr. Cole’s Mythical River: Hudson River School Paintings Viewed from the Bottom of the Poestenkill Falls”



Wallace Altes

"Economic Changes in the Capital Region/Tech Valley Over the Past 20 Years"



David Griggs-Janower and Sharon Roy

"Choral Music: It's Not What You Think!"



Arturo Estrella

"The Economic and Financial Crisis: Will It Ever End?"



Kaitlin TeBordo Wood

"Conditions on the Ground in Zimbabwe"



Don and Diane Bell

"Take Me to the Kasbah!"



Jim Moore '62

"Linked to Lincoln: Ada Hurd, Emma Willard and the Rise of Women's Rights"



Kathy Sheehan

"The Resourceful Women of Rensselaer County"



Dr. Paul Hohenberg

"The State of the American Economy"



Laura Kratt>

"A Victorian Tradition in Modern Times"



Christine Dixon>

"Wiawaka: The Great Spirit in Woman"



Pete Shaver

"Live and Let Die: Famous, Infamous, Favorite, and Unusual Gravestones in New York State"



Dr. Larry Kagan

"Discovering a New Visual Language in Steel and Shadow"



Kristen Frederick

"Philanthropy for All: How Community Foundations Can Help All of Us Leave Our Mark"



Dr. Richard Siegel

"Nanostructured Materials - Research at Rensselaer



Steve Muller

"The USS Monitor and Troy"



Judith R. Saide

"High-Tech Growth and Community Well-Being: Lessons Learned From Austin, TX"



Jeanne M. Keefe

"Irish Immigration to Troy During the 19th Century: A Pictorial Essay"



Dr. Paul Hohenberg

"The State of the U.S. Economy"



Dr. Robert McNaughton

"Where Do We Go From Here?: A Review of Two Recent Publications About the War in Iraq"



Dr. Henry Bungay

"Personal Computer Entertainment: Music, Videos, Images"



Sid Fleisher

"Alley Improvement Project"



Connie Fritz

"Impressions of the Holy Land"



Ellen Sinopoli and Dr. Frances Brone

"Spill Out!"



Jorge Vidalv

"Renewal of Folsom Library"



Dr. Hollis Seamon

"Moving in Mysterious Ways: Reading/Writing Detective Fiction"



Dr. Michael Hanna

"Why Biology? Literacy & Pedagogy"



Dr. William Brower

"Variegated Remarks on a Trip to Norway via London"



Robert Engel

"Doodles, Drafts and Designs: Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian"



Amy Faca and Lynne Kopka

"Troy's Historic Architecture: Recent Developments in Preservation and Rehabilitation"



Lou Padulla

"New Medicare Options"



Dr. Merritt Abrash

"Utopian Studies">



Dr. Gill Kandell

"The 11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Curse the Deaf!"



Dr. Stephen E. Wiberly

"No Ivory Tower"



Katia Haskins

"Russia and Russians Confront Their Soviet History"



Dr. Michael Halloran

"Picturesque Patriotism: Tourists at the Saratoga Battlefield in the 19th Century"



Earl A. Zimmerman>

"Dr. Alzheimer Goes Molecular: Recent Developments in Alzheimer's Research"



Diane Litynski

"Anorexia Nervosa - The Ultimate Road Race"



Ed Dague

"Ed Dague's Early 1960's Experiences"



Randy Rumpf

"The Art of Creative Communications"



Chris Ballantyne

"The Hudson River PCB Cleanup: An Environmentalist's Perspective"



Michael D. Sofka

"Spam, Spyware, Viruses and Spam: A Gentle Guide to Malware"



Mark Pattison

"Reflections of the Outgoing Mayor of Troy"



The Carl A. Westerdahl Forums

The Westerdahl Forum presents programs that explore education, history, art, architecture, engineering, and science as they relate to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In collaboration with community organizations and Rensselaer alumni, the forum presents experts who share their insights on these topics as speakers or panel members.

The Carl A. Westerdahl Forum was established in October 2013 by the board of directors of the Friends of the Folsom Library in honor of Westerdahl, a longtime member of the Friends’ board who passed away in April 2013. In his long career at Rensselaer, Westerdahl served the Institute as dean of students, director of alumni and community relations, and director of constituent programs. Upon retirement in 1998, he volunteered as Institute historian. He was co-author of the history book, Rensselaer: Where Imagination Achieves the Impossible, and as a member of the Friends, had presented a popular series of luncheon presentations on Rensselaer history.

The Inaugural Westerdahl Forum 

  • On October 16, 2014 Frank Griggs ’56, engineer, bridge restorer, and historian, was the featured speaker. Joining him were panelists Chris Letchford, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer, and George Christian, M.S. ’76. Over the course of the day's events, presenters highlighted the role Rensselaer alumni played in the growth of bridge design locally and nationwide in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first presentation entitled Civil Engineering Training at Rensselaer in the Late 1800s occurred in the Russell Sage Dining Hall at noon, while the evening presentation entitlted Crossing the Hudson: Capital Region Bridges took place in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Auditorium

The Second Westerdahl Forum 

  • On April 20, 2016 Professor Emeritus of Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering Lester Gerhardt's presentation entitled “Aerospace and Rensselaer: Then, Now, and Tomorrow: highlighted the role Rensselaer people and programs have played in the aerospace industry, from 1930s aeronautics to the space shuttle and beyond. Joining Professor Gerhardt were panelists Rensselaer Provost Prabhat Hajela and Jennifer (Parker) Keyes ’02, operations research analyst at NASA’s Langley Research Center, who examine the post-Shuttle era, changes in the aerospace industry, and the continued preparation of Rensselaer graduates for careers in space. The host for the evening was Institute Trustee Paula L. Simon ’68. This event took place in the Russell Sage Dining Hall.


The Third Westerdahl Forum 

  • On September 11, 2017 at the Auditorium, in the Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies, the Third Carl A. Westerdahl Forum featured a presentation by author Erica Wagner and Archivist Jenifer Monger, moderated by Director of Library Information Services Andrew White. The topic of discussion was Erica Wagner's recent biography of the Brooklyn Bridge Chief Engineer Washington Roebling, RPI class of 1857. This video captures the proceedings of that event

    Third Carl A. Westerdahl Forum

The Fourth Westerdahl Forum - 

Every Appearance of Permanence: Data Preservation Issues in the Digital Age


  • On October 21, 2019 at the Auditorium, in the Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies, the Fourth Carl A. Westerdahl Forum featured four panelists presenting and speaking to the challenges of data preservatiion in the digital age. The invited speakers were: 

· Jonas S. Almeida, Ph.D., Chief Data Scientist, Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, National Institutes of Health

· David Howell, Head of Heritage Science, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

· George Blood, Founder/CEO of George Blood, LP, a leading provider of archival audio and moving image services

· Bryan Alexander, Ph.D., Department of Learning and Design, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Georgetown University

The event was sponsored by the Rensselaer Libraries, Friends of the Folsom Library, School of Humanities, Arts, and  Social Sciences, and the Capital District Library Council. This video captures the proceedings of that event