A tour of six small, busy Island libraries
The new, the old, and those about to be enlarged - the library scene is a lively one
There are six Island towns and six libraries. Whether looking at the smallest library located in Aquinnah or the largest and newest building in Oak Bluffs, each town library provides a unique reflection of its community.
The new Oak Bluffs Public Library, a $3.8-million project completed in 2005, was built with the future in mind. The library, adjacent to Oak Bluffs Town Hall, has a staff of six full-time and two part-time workers, plus volunteer aides.
The budget for the Oak Bluffs Library in fiscal 2007, which begins on July 1, is $374,765.
The new Oak Bluffs library has ample space. Photo by Ralph Stewart
New library director Danguole Budris, who worked 14 years in the Edgartown library before taking over the helm in Oak Bluffs, is proud of the new facility. "Our mission states that we focus on children's services," she said, "and you should see how much love and effort went into the new children's room."
More than 20 computer stations throughout the library are dedicated to reference, circulation, and catalog use; one station is dedicated to the sight-impaired.
The new library is attracting more use. Ms. Budris recently reported that circulation increased by more than 50 percent in two months when compared to the same period last year.
The library's collection reflects Oak Bluffs cultural history as a long-time African American resort and today, home to a growing Brazilian population. Ms. Budris said that African American materials are a specialty of the library, and there are more than 700 items available in Portuguese, a recognition of the town's growing Brazilian population.
The West Tisbury Public Library, tucked behind the Howes House and across from Alley's General Store, is the only library open on Sundays in the off-season (October to May) and draws book lovers from all parts of the Island. It also provides an example of how rapidly libraries can grow. With help from state grants, the library was built in 1993, and an addition was added in 1995. Today, the West Tisbury Library is bursting at the seams with its 46,657 items of all kinds, considerably more material than in many larger libraries. The library's FY 07 budget is $292,268.
The West Tisbury Library recently completed a six-month search for a new director to replace long-time director Mary Jo Joiner, who resigned last year. Guided by a patron survey, on May 11 library trustees named Howard Curtis, a Massachusetts native working as a library director in Corona, California, as the new director. Mary Lu Keep, a member of the search committee, said, "Howard will be a dynamic addition to our community."
The Aquinnah Public Library is the Island's smallest library. Photo by Aubrey Gibavic
The library staff looks forward to the annual used book sale run by the library Friends, a summer highlight that will take place July 28-30 at the West Tisbury School.
The Chilmark Free Public Library on South Road recently ended its search for a new library director to replace the retiring Cathy Thompson, when it named Ebba Hierta, a West Tisbury library assistant, to the post.
The new $2.4-million library opened in June 2003.
The library was built with the help of a $1.1-million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, and approximately $1 million in private donations. The town contributed $300,000. The library's FY 07 budget is $199,896.
Norm Freed, a library trustee, speaks proudly of the financial support for the library from community members who, he said, believe that the community is improved by a high-quality library. He is particularly proud of the library's multi-purpose room. "When we built the library, that was to be our focus - our circulation has leveled off now, but building use has increased due to good programs, art shows, and computer use."
The Chilmark Library also has the unique function of serving as the library for the Chilmark School, which does not have a school library.
The new Vineyard Haven Public Library on Main Street was completed in 2000 and houses 39,388 items. The staff of seven full-time and four part-time employees also receives much support from a library friends group. The library's FY 07 budget is $433,342.
CLAMS, the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing service used by the Tisbury, Edgartown, and Oak Bluffs libraries, encourages each of its 33 member libraries to adopt a specialty. "Cooking, gardening, and opera CDs are ours," said Cecily Greenaway, reference librarian.
When asked if reference librarians will become extinct with the use of computers for research, Ms. Greenaway had an especially spirited reply. "Computers make reference librarians even more valuable," she insisted. "It is our job to teach others how to discriminate. There's so much inaccurate information on the Internet or information presented with a slant or an agenda in mind. We have a serious obligation to teach others how to discern, how to discriminate, between valuable and useless information."
Ms. Greenaway said the newest use of technology in the library involves soon-to-be-acquired MP3 players that would allow patrons to download books free of charge. The Vineyard Haven Library will be the first on the Island to offer this new technology to its patrons. Any resident may apply for a CLAMS card at the Tisbury, the Oak Bluffs, or the Edgartown Library, and that enables the downloading of books free of charge.
The Edgartown Public Library on South Water Street recently began a redesign effort, after the town zoning board turned down an extensive building expansion plan. The library development committee will attempt a new plan that will pass muster with town boards, town meeting, and with the state. The library's FY 07 budget is $260,394.
The Edgartown Library staff is also working to rectify a mold problem that led to the closing of the children's room in April. Felicia Cheney, the library director of less than a year, says she hopes that programs will continue to be offered throughout the summer. She said that the town has generously provided The Anchors, the building used for senior programs, for story hours every Thursday and for other evening programs.
"We'll just have to use tents and have our summer programs outdoors if we can't use the building," Ms. Cheney promised optimistically. Meanwhile, she is waiting patiently as the downsized plans and alterations move through the approval process.
Why do people come to this library? Kathy Belcher, the circulation director, said that popular fiction draws most patrons during the off-season, while Internet and children's programs draw more patrons during the summer months.
The Aquinnah Public Library is in a little red schoolhouse built in 1827, on State Road just past the town hall. The building was used as an elementary school for Gay Headers but also served to house the volumes of the Gay Head Library, established in 1901. After the school was closed in the 1960s, the books were moved to town hall, then returned to the former schoolhouse building that continued to be used as the public library. The library's FY 07 budget is $59,051.
Director Jennifer Christy described the library as "a hub of community gatherings" and said that the library, open 16 hours per week, is busy during wintertime as well as in summer. Like the other Island libraries, a generous Friends group provides fundraising and many volunteer hours that supplement the work of the small library's one director and one library assistant.
Ms. Christy describes proudly the library's "well-rounded and balanced collection" that serves the needs of the community. "We even have three public use computers and wireless access," she said.
Large and small, all of the libraries of Martha's Vineyard offer a variety of programs - include storytelling for infants, craft times for children and adults, vacation sleepovers for young teens, family games nights, book clubs, birding programs, elder tax help and Medicare services, movies, and concerts - which perhaps helps explain the generous support of taxpayers.
To learn more about library programs call: Aquinnah, 508-645-2314; Chilmark, 508-645-3360; Edgartown, 508-627-4221; Oak Bluffs, 508-693-9433; Tisbury, 508-696-4211;
West Tisbury, 508-693-3366.
Additional information about business aspects of the six Island libraries (expenditures, circulation, materials per capita, state aid, and other data) is available to the public at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners web site: http:// www.mlin.lib.ma.us/advisory/statistics/public/index.php.
Elaine Pace, the former principal of the West Tisbury School, lives in West Tisbury.The Aquinnah Public Library is the Island's smallest library.