The Week in Library Land: July 7th to July 13th
What a week it was in Library Land! We visited seven libraries AND appeared on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” program on Friday afternoon - what fun! What’s less fun is the fact that it’s taken so many days to get this posted!
Tuesday started with a repeat visit to the Winchester Public Library. This time, what was most notable was the library’s art collection. Whether it was the outstanding Tiffany stained glass , its Depression-era murals, or its modern quilts, the Winchester library is a feast for the eyes! Library Land Score: 4.00.
On Wednesday, we decided to turn west to make more headway in that part of the state. We began at the Oxford Free Library in Oxford. This is a lovely little library! There had been a "social" library in town starting in the early 19th century. In 1903, the town opened the "free" public library. In 2000, the library was expanded.
On the first floor of the old section are two reading rooms (one of which is for teens), a computer room and a local history room. All are comfortable and the history room includes a number of interesting items, including a flag from 1865, which reflects the admission of Nevada into the Union. On the first floor of the new building is the main collection, as well as the circulation desk. The second floor of both buildings is the children's section. In the basement is a small museum on the town’s history. It’s interesting. The same is true of the local history room. More than interesting, however, is the public art on display on the library grounds. The current “Arts in the Yard” collection, part of an annual call for public art, is very cool and definitely worth a visit.
There is a Library of Things collection that includes a violin! It was out of tune and the bow hadn’t been rosined so Greg took time from our busy schedule to help get it into playable condition. We also had a fine conversation with Brittany McDougal, the director, and her staff, about the library, its history and its place in the town. Library Land Score: 4.36.
From Oxford we went south to the Pearle L. Crawford Memorial Library in Dudley. The library is a large and modern one. Built in 2010 or so, it has many features one finds in recent libraries, including comfortable study rooms, a high ceiling that creates an open and airy feeling in the space, etc. We worked happily for a while and also took some time to appreciate an exhibit of revolutionary posters (or, more accurately, posters about revolutions and political movements). Library Land Score: 4.36.
Our last library of the day was the Simon Fairfield Public Library in Douglas. It’s a little old library from 1903. It's small, but sweet and interesting. We loved the spirit of the signs in the front lawn: “Think Before Speaking, Read Before Thinking.” Excellent advice. Inside, the space is jam-packed with books and materials. We arrived late in the day, but there were still patrons on hand. The staff was friendly and willing to chat with us about the library and its history. One of the more interesting items is a campaign banner for William Harrison - America’s 9th and shortest-serving president. (Harrison died on April 4, 1841, just a month after his inauguration on March 4th of the same year.) What is curious about the banner is that it says it’s from Douglass, but it’s from Douglass, Texas and has nothing to do with Douglas, Massachusetts. Library Land Score: 3.91.
On Thursday, we continued our travels on the North Shore, a part of the state we’ve made good progress on and should finish in the next few months.
Next, we visited two libraries in the Peabody Institute system. The West Branch is definitely a branch library, with a slightly dated feel (which comes as no surprise given it is from the 1970s). It has a good sized children's area and a card catalog that has been converted into a seed sharing bank. It’s not the ideal coworking space but does have a community meeting room available. Library Land Score: 3.55.
The main branch of the Peabody system is located on the aptly named Main Street and is a large red brick structure that was built in 1865 with an addition done in 1977. The treasures of George Peabody are a sight to behold. They include a gilt-framed portrait of Queen Victoria, small golden boxes, and even some gold nuggets. The library also has a pretty extensive collection of paintings. There are a few spots for working around the library, but no dedicated study rooms. It’s a big comfortable place, though, and was an interesting visit. Library Land Score: 4.36.
From Peabody, we went over to the Abbott Library in Marblehead. This is a relatively utilitarian library. It's big and has a lot of interesting features, including a microfilm machine, a public typewriter and a nifty book sale area. It's a dimly-lit library, which is interesting. We're told there are some great programming/community spaces in the library and were able to see the local history room, which is quite nice. Also interesting is a photo exhibit outside the administrative offices. The staff was especially helpful as we tried to master the microfilm machine - something of a lost skill! Library Land Score: 4.27.
For final visit for the day - and the week as it turned out - we went to the Swampscott Public Library. Built in 1917, It's main old building is quite nice, with plenty of seating and work areas. The local history room has scrapbooks of the town's history and some nice maps, which one of the friendly librarians was kind enough to show us. Locked bathrooms are a bummer. Library Land Score: 4.09.
That wasn’t the last Library Land event of the week, however! Perhaps the highlight of the week was the opportunity to appear on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” with host Tiziana Dearing. Live radio is such a gas! We had fun a few months ago when we appeared on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio” for the weekly news quiz, but “Radio Boston” provided a nice opportunity to talk in more detail about some of the libraries we love and the important work being done by librarians around the state.
Well, that was the week in Library Land. It was a fun one - and this week, with a trip to Cape Cod, is shaping up to be something special too!