Not Your Grandmother’s Library Anymore
Vermont’s early settlers brought their muskets and kettles with them, but they also tucked books, especially family Bibles, into their wagons. Reading has always been important to Vermonters. The Green Mountain Boys distributed broadsides and hammered them onto walls, which indicates a literate population, and the newspaper from which the Rutland Herald developed began printing in 1793. Early libraries include the Maclure Library in Pittsford, founded in 1797; many public libraries developed out of town reading clubs, like the Arlington Library Society, founded in 1803, which led to the present Martha Canfield Memorial Library. Speaking of which, here’s my favorite new statistic: Vermont has 183 public libraries, making it first in the nation in number of libraries per capita—although Vermont is the 49th state in population size. Driving though even the smallest village, you’re bound to pass a library, and, no matter the size, it provides sophisticated services. I discovered this recently in random visits to seven of our local libraries, from large—the Canfield in Arlington and Mark Skinner Memorial Library in Manchester—to small. The tiny Rupert Rosalind Keshin Kittay Public Library and the Winhall Memorial Library in Bondville are each basically one room with a separate tiny children’s space. Talking with librarians, though, I learned that despite differences in size, they all have at least one common problem—where to put all of those books!
“We need space. We get rid of everything that’s more than 15 years old unless it’s by a popular author,” says Gail Woll, head of the Dorset Village Library. “We gave most of our local history books to the Historical Society because we thought they’d get more use there.” Connie Guttroff of Winhall echoes her and praises two volunteers, Rita Silton and Doris Bass, who “culled the collection” a few years ago, guided by frequency of circulation. As beloved as a book may be to some readers, the libraries can’t keep them on the shelves if nobody checks them out; borrowers always want the newest books. That’s what happened in Rupert when the executor of the estate of the late Dorset artist Dean Faucett gave all of his art books to the library several years ago. But, director Thelma Georgeson and former librarian Ruth Gilbert explain, “There were so many books and they never circulated, although people did look at them, and we needed the space. We gave them to the artist Brian Sweetland—Faucett was his mentor. Time marches on!”