The Week in Library Land: July 14th to July 20th
What a great week we had in Library Land! We got to visit seven libraries on Cape Cod, as well as some old favorites in Arlington, Waltham, and Natick. We had a terrific conversation with Rebecca Miller, editorial director at Library Journal, and we had the opportunity to talk about Library Land at Boston University with some marketing students from Milan. It was a busy, busy, wonderfully busy, and super fun week in Library Land!
We’ve known for a while that getting to the libraries on Cape Cod was going to take some planning and effort. Well, I can say we wished we’d planned a little better since a lot of libraries are closed on Mondays during the summer. The trip was well worth the effort though and we saw some amazing libraries.
Our first stop was the Snow Public Library in Orleans. This is a fairly standard town/suburban library. It has plenty of space for work and study. The original library - built in the mid-nineteenth century - was destroyed by fire in the early 1950s. In 1954, a new library was built, which was added to in 1977, again in 1992. There was also a renovation in 2000. We really liked their large art gallery and performance space with small balcony. Those things were all to the good, but the library feels a bit tired and shows its age. Library Land Score: 4.09.
We’d planned to visit Eastham and Truro on our way north to Provincetown. While the first part of the plan was dashed, we did go to the Provincetown Public Library and were amazed! The building that houses the library has had a long and varied history: a church, an art museum, a history museum, another history museum and finally the public library, then a town historical museum (which is when a fabulous boat was added) and then the library.
There are two features that make this library special. The first is a half-scale model of the schooner “Rose Dorothea” that was built over ten years and completed in 1988. You may see the words “half-scale” and imagine that this is some piddly little thing. If so, you’d be quite mistaken! This ship is massive and takes the better part of the library's second floor. To accommodate its masts there are holes in the ceiling, a good 25 feet above its deck. While the ship is an interesting centerpiece, it isn’t currently used for anything else. In some ways, that’s understandable - you can imagine all kinds of mischief (or possibly a boom bump accident) that could happen on board. Still, it would be neat if it could be used for programming from time-to-time.
The other cool feature of the library is its view. Looking north from the third-floor mezzanine, there’s an amazing view of Provincetown Harbor. It’s definitely worth checking out. Be warned, though, parking around the library can be a challenge!
This is a really fun library, you can find more photos on Instagram! Library Land Score: 4.09.
From Provincetown we went to the Wellfleet Public Library. We’ve already written about this marvelous place but there’s still more to be said. One of the things we neglected to mention is the library’s seed bank. This isn’t necessarily unique to Wellfleet and it’s something more and more libraries are starting to do. Seed banks overall are becoming more important and were reported on in the New York Times earlier this year. What’s amazing about Wellfleet is the fact that the assistant director, Naomi Czekaj, prepares all 2,000 seed packets they distribute by hand! Talk about dedication! Library Land Score: 4.55.
On Tuesday, our day started at the Hyannis Public Library - our 200th library visited in Massachusetts!!! The staff was so nice when they heard of this Library Land milestone - they even had some souvenir cup plates they bestowed on us, so cool! We were actually meeting with a potential business prospect and the library served our purposes very well.
In some ways, Hyannis is a tale of two libraries. To the left of the entrance is the “contemporary” building (from the 1970s), which houses the bulk of the collection, seating, computers, and the children’s area. During our visit, there was an interactive rocketry session for kids presented by a staffer from the Museum of Science, Boston. It was the first of many events and exhibits we saw relating to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
We might never have seen what was to the right (towards Main St.) and that would have been a shame. The “contemporary” section is a fairly typical 1970s space - utilitarian and not much to write home about. To the right, you go back in time in two stages. The first section you reach - the Eagleston Wing - dates from the 1930s and features a nice little reading room, the director’s office and some of the libraries reference collection and historic photos. Further back, you find yourself in the 19th century Loring-Hallett-Otis House built around 1830. This section features additional reading rooms and the library’s lovely volunteer-run bookstore.
One of the most interesting aspects of this oldest section are the staircases to the second floor. While these are closed to the public and used to display books, you will see that they have an extremely sharp upward angle and very narrow steps. This comes as no surprise when you learn the original owner of the house was a sea captain who would have been used to these steep stairs from his time aboard ships.
We were so fortunate to have Carol Saunders, the library’s director, show us around. Without her guidance, we would have missed so much of this fine library! We actually made two visits to the library on Tuesday. The second visit, in the afternoon, was to sit down with a reporter from the Cape Cod Times (we’ll keep you updated if and when a story appears). It’s great to have public spaces for these types of meetings in virtually every community!
We really enjoyed our visit, check out Instagram for more photos!Library Land Score: 4.27.
Between our first and second visits to the Hyannis Library, we drove to Barnstable to see the Sturgis Library. Gabrielle at the Wellfleet library suggested we visit and told us to ask for Corey Farrenkopf, the adult services/reference librarian. We did that, and - as a result - had a great tour of this interesting library.
There are a few features that make this library stand out - one is the library’s extensive genealogy collection. They have records for virtually every family, town, and home on the Cape - as well as town records for most of the towns in Massachusetts. It’s also the oldest building in use as a public library in the country, with the oldest section dating from the 1640s! Finally, because Kurt Vonnegut was once a trustee, there’s a great collection of his manuscripts, books, and memorabilia.
One of the coolest parts of its holdings is a collection of wooden jigsaw puzzles. We’re not talking about the big blocky puzzles with plastic handles for toddlers, no, not by a long shot. These are beautifully crafted and intricate puzzles that brought to mind the puzzles of made by Gaspard Winckler for Bartlebooth in George Perec’s novel, “Life: A User’s Manual.”
You can see more photos of our visit and heartily recommend this singular library on Instagram! Library Land Score: 4.64.
As we left the Cape, we made one final stop at the Sandwich Public Library. This is one of those libraries that just seems to keep going and going, kind of like Hermione’s Beaded Bag, it seemed to have no end. We entered through the front door, which is in the older section of the building. Like Hyannis, Sandwich has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. They are having a reading contest where each page equals one mile toward the moon. When we visited, the readers were racing toward their goal - hopefully they’ll read enough to get home as well!
We spent some time chatting with the director, Joanne Lamothe, about the library, her plans, goings on around other libraries, as well as feedback on the Library Land project and how we might expand and improve our advocacy activities. It’s been such an unexpected - and wonderful - development that we have opportunities like this to interact with the library community. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves! Library Land Score: 4.64.
On Wednesday, we went over to the Robbins Library in Arlington. We’ve visited this library a few times, what with it being Adam’s town library and all. This visit was to meet with a potential SharpOrange client. Being able to reserve a meeting room is a super convenient thing and the Robbins makes it easy! Library Land Score: 3.73.
We also spoke with Rebecca Miller, editorial director at Library Journal, on Wednesday. We’ve wanted to connect for a while. We talked about our rating system, our plans for Library Land and a host of other topics. We love the work they’re doing!
On Thursday, it was back to the Waltham Public Library. Sometimes you just need a quiet place to sit and think and work and Watham checks all the boxes. On this visit, we saw a nice outdoor exhibit on the women who helped make the lunar landing possible, it was neat! Library Land Score: 4.09.
We also had the chance to talk about the Library Land project with a group of Italian students taking a six-week interactive marketing course with Jeff Cutler at Boston University. It was fun to put the project in the context of PR, communications, marketing and our career paths. The students had some good questions and insights and we - of course - had a lot of fun!
On Friday, we visited our last library of this very busy week, the Morse Institute in Natick. Being Greg’s local library, it sees a lot of visits. As with Waltham, it’s a fine place to get some quiet work done. It’s also a fine place to pick up books that have been requested from other libraries in the state! Library Land Score: 4.45.
Well, there you have it, a super busy, super fun, super productive, and super awesome week in Library Land. We’ll see what happens next!