The Week in Library Land: June 23rd to 30th
It was a good week in Library Land. We visited six libraries and five of them were new ones to us.
We started on Tuesday, with a meeting at the Massachusetts Library System. Their mission is to “foster cooperation, communication, innovation, and sharing among member libraries.” That’s certainly something we can get behind! We want to be partners with as many people and organizations as possible and it was really interesting and useful to sit down and talk about how our activities can complement other efforts already underway. Hopefully there will be ways to work together.
After the meeting we decided to visit three libraries in the central part of the state. The first was the Berlin Public Library. As of 2010, the town’s population was 2,866. At the time the library was built in the late 1920s, there were just 1,000 residents. As a result, this is a small library - though not without its charm. The director was a wonderful, friendly, and engaging fellow who was happy to show us around and talk about the services the library provides. One of the biggest challenges they face - as it the case so often - is one of space. As he mentioned during our chat, the library is “doing its best with what they have” - and that is totally evident. LIbrary Land Score: 3.82.
From Berlin we made our way to the Conant Free Library in Sterling. The building is from 1885 and from the outside looked interesting and promising. On the inside, it reflected a late 20th century renovation with drop ceilings and few of the charming details one expects from a late 19th century library. It’s a comfortable place but not especially memorable. Library Land Score: 3.91.
Our final stop for the day was Princeton Public Library. This library is something. As soon as we arrived we could tell we were in for something special and the experience did not disappoint. The library is a large stone building atop a hill facing west. There is a clocktower in the southwest corner of the building and these always attract our attention. Princeton has a population of 3,454 (as of 2017) but the library feels like it supports a much larger community. During our visit we saw a constant stream of people coming and going and witnessed countless engagements between patrons and the library staff. We, too, had the opportunity to spend time with the Director, Mary Barroll and her team and they were great. We were also able to follow in the footsteps of Kenneth Hagberg, the keeper of the town clock from 1961 to 2009, and see the library’s amazing mechanical clock in action! It’s a really wonderful library and we’ll be writing more about it soon! Library Land Score: 4.27.
Just as we went west on Tuesday, on Thursday we decided to shift to the east.
The first stop was Scituate. This is the third Oudens Ello library we’ve seen (the others being in Millis and the wildly-awesome Gladys E. Kelly library in Webster). Like those two, the Scituate Library is something else. It retains the footprint and exterior of the pask library but was completely reimagined on the inside. For the second time we were amazed by what Oudens Ello does with light. At the peak of this library’s large and open space is what I am told is a lantern. This glass structure floods the library with such amazing natural light. Another feature that we totally loved was the reading porch. This is a long and shaded spot with chairs, tables and porch swings. It is absolutely beautiful. There are tons of other places to work around the library, including three study rooms, a book club room, and a history room. The staff are rightly very proud of their library and it’s clear that they have worked well and effectively with the community to bring this great resource to life! Library Land Score: 4.64
There are a few libraries around that are harder to reach than others and require a special trip to reach. Nahant (which is a beautiful library) is one example and on the opposite side of the harbor, the Hull Public Library, is another. That’s just where we went for our second library of the day. The gray clapboard building was originally the home of John Boyle O’Reilly. Walking through older section of the library you can imagine what it must have been like as a private home. There are so many cool features: snug reading areas, awesome stained glass, a fireplace with the three witches from Macbeth on the back wall of the firebox, and so much more. There’s one other thing worth noting; somewhere on the grounds of the library lies interred the body of a British soldier who died at the site in 1775. Library Land Score: 4.00.
The last library of the week was a visit to the Somerville Central Library on Friday afternoon. It’s such a wonderfully eclectic jumble of a library. As is often the case, a second look improved our assessment. Library Land Score: 4.09.
Well, that’s it for last week and who knows what this week will bring? I can say for certain that it will include a visit to the central branch of the Boston Public Library, where I am writing these words. Have a good week and why not visit a library near you!