The Week in Library Land: August 4th to August 10th
It was a fun week in Library Land. We met some great people, visited some new libraries - including Eastham, Brewster, and Pembroke, saw some old favorites - Sharon, Medford and Lincoln, and explored some interesting ideas about inclusion in library design and services. Here’s the lowdown.
On Monday, we visited the Sharon Public Library. This wasn’t our first visit, but it was an excellent one. We met with Lee Ann Amend, the library director, and Sarah Graf, a member of the library foundation. Sharon is in the process of building a new library (though it will be a few years until it opens) and is in good hands with Lee Ann. She has been involved with two other new library projects in Osterville and in Webster, both of which are amazing places.
The current library has served the town well for many years but it’s clearly living on borrowed time. The ability to design and build with current and future uses of the space in mind - things like the library’s booming pre-K programming, its expanding youth services, and co-working areas - will help the library continue to meet the town’s needs for years to come.
Aside from the plans to build, we had a free-ranging conversation that touched on so many topics. One of the most interesting was around the issue of maintaining physical collections. This is a real hot-button issue in the library community with changes in ebook licensing from many publishers causing a bit of conflict. (You can read an excellent overview of the issue on CNN by Jessamyn West, a totally boss Vermont librarian.)
Another thing that impressed us about Sharon is the medical information they provide. The library has a deep commitment to helping patrons understand and manage healthcare information. Their extensive Alzheimer's curriculum is one of a kind resource kit to help families understand the disease and evaluate their loved ones. It’s a unique offering that could serve as a model for other libraries.
As always, it was terrific to get some time with a team so committed to their community and the success of their library! Library Land Score: 3.91.
Tuesday was an especially awesome day. It started with breakfast with John Chrastka, executive director, EveryLibrary at Zinneken’s Belgian Waffles in Harvard Square. We’ve chatted by phone a few times, but this was the first time we’d met in person - and with waffles! There are some interesting plans afoot, but we’ll hold off on going into detail while those are developing.
After breakfast, the Library Land team split up to cover more ground. One of us went to the Belmont Public Library, which is still working toward a new library. In the meantime, the library continues to offer amazing programs and services, but it can be a challenging place to get work done - we have faith that better days are on the horizon! Library Land Score: 3.09.
The other went to the Medford Public Library - or perhaps it’s the Medford Ghost Public Library. You see, the town will be building a brand new library, but until it’s done, the collection has been moved to a temporary facility. Library Land was on hand to see some of the items being packed for their new home and had a great conversation with long-time director Barbara Kerr. The circa 1959 library was fading away; but the town and staff are very excited to see what is next when the work is done! Retired Library Land Score: 3.64
In the afternoon, we rejoined forces and headed south to Cape Cod, to finally visit the Eastham Public Library. While we wanted to see the library, we were also having photos taken for a story in the Cape Cod Times, which made the trip doubly-fun!
We were certainly pleased by our visit. The library was everything it was cracked up to be and then some. It’s spacious, brightly lit with loads of natural light, has some beautiful seating and work areas, and staff that was super and totally welcoming. We really enjoyed our visit, as we hope our review of the library attests. Library Land Score: 4.82.
Driving west from Eastham (shouldn’t all directions be west from there?) we stopped at the Brewster Ladies’ Library. It’s a really interesting place with three buildings that span more than 150 years of construction and additions. Even though neither of us is a lady, we were both totally welcomed here. How the library came upon its name is an interesting story.
Way back in 1852, Brewster was a bustling little burg that had a lot going for it - but no library. Two women - Sarah Mayo and her pal Mary Cobb - decided that needed to change. They roped a dozen other women into the plan and soon the “ladies” established a subscription library in the home of Captain Mayo, Sarah’s father. Men have always been allowed to use the library, but in the beginning, they had to pay more than the ladies. That practice has since changed and now it is a “free for all” ;).
One of the nice things about the library is the way they’ve managed to maintain a consistent look and feel through all of the changes and expansions. We understand that new renovations are planned and are looking forward to seeing them. Library Land Score: 4.00.
On Wednesday it was back north toward Boston, but not before we managed one more visit. We stopped by the Pembroke Public Library and had a very interesting visit. The building is from the early 2000s and reflects that era’s civic space sensibilities. It was designed by Johnson Roberts Associates, whose work we have seen and appreciated in many towns in Massachusetts. It’s a really nice facility that has an open, airy feel with plenty of comfortable spaces for spreading out and working, alone or with others.
We spent some time chatting with the director, Deborah Wall. She told us that the library serves many purposes for the community. For example, it’s a passport office, which is very cool. Even cooler is the fact that the library is a designated emergency shelter. This is something we’ve heard about in the past (in fact, just the day before in Eastham) but Pembroke takes it up another notch.
Earlier this year, following an extreme weather event, the library stayed open 24 hours a day for five days. During regular library hours it was the town library. After hours, it remained open as a shelter - but not only for humans, but for pets as well! Care for pets and other animals is near and dear to Wall’s heart and the library has crates (and policies) to ensure dogs and cats can stay with their owners if disaster strikes. This kind of non-traditional service is what makes libraries so central and special for their communities. Library Land Score: 4.55.
Friday, TGIF! We had a few visits on Friday. One was super interesting and one was just a working session. The super interesting visit was at the Weston Public Library. We’ve been many times, but this visit we met with Sandy Ho, a disabled queer Asian-American woman, community-organizer, and a researcher in disability policy. We try to pay attention to accessibility issues when we visit libraries; but in many ways, we come from a place of able-bodied privilege. You can read more about our conversation with Sandy here.
The last library of the week was the Lincoln Public Library. Every time we visit, we like this library more. It’s so hard to explain though - there’s nothing specific we can point to, but it’s just a favorite. You probably know what we mean - we love the place!
So that’s it for the Week in Library Land. There’s a lot of great stuff on the horizon (including a that Cape Cod Times story mentioned above - spoiler alert - it got picked up by the Associated Press) and we can’t wait to get out there, do more, tell more stories, talk to more people, share more photos and invite more people to spend time in Library Land!