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West Tisbury Library

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The library lobby will welcome the community to a place he cherished.

From left, Ron Rappaport, Dorothy Gregory, Shannon Gregory Carbon, and Bess Carbon listening to the kind words spoken about Pat Gregory. – Photos by Lisa Vanderhoop

On Sunday afternoon, nearly one year to the day since Pat Gregory was killed, friends, neighbors, and colleagues streamed into the West Tisbury library for a ceremony which dedicated the lobby in his honor. The crowd of more than 75 packed the spacious, light-filled lobby, overflowing into adjoining rooms. A table displayed a color photo of Mr. Gregory, his friendly, cheerful face familiar to all; a poem in his honor by outgoing Poet Laureate Justen Ahren; and programs from his memorial last May, when mourners filled the Agricultural Hall to bursting. Daffodils adorned every surface, gifts from townspeople happy to contribute to this special event.

The plaque on the wall at the West Tisbury library.
The plaque on the wall at the West Tisbury library.

Mr. Gregory, West Tisbury’s well-liked and respected town moderator for 23 years, a community-minded business owner, family man, and friend to many, was robbed and shot to death on a California hiking trail on May 16, 2014, leaving Islanders shocked and saddened. It was evident that his loss was still deeply felt by those gathered on Sunday.

Mr. Gregory’s widow, Dorothy, and their daughter Shannon Carbon stood before the front entry. His granddaughter Bess, 6, wore a bright red dress and snuggled close to her mother and grandmother. Mr. Gregory’s grandson, 8-year-old Jack, stood beside his father Dan Carbon, wearing his Giants baseball uniform for an upcoming practice.

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell stepped to the podium and asked for a moment of silence, then pianist David Stanwood began to play a meditative Irish lament.

Speaker Cynthia Mitchell, chairman of the West Tisbury Board of Selectman, giving tribute to Pat Gregory.
Speaker Cynthia Mitchell, chairman of the West Tisbury Board of Selectman, giving tribute to Pat Gregory.

Ms. Mitchell welcomed the crowd on behalf of the West Tisbury Library Trustees and selectmen, and said that she had initially felt a memorial to Mr. Gregory should be at the town hall, because of his importance to town government. But after learning of his strong connection to the library, she realized how appropriate this location was.

Pausing several times to regain her composure, Ms. Mitchell shared comments written by the children’s librarian, Nelia Decker.

“Watching Pat with his grandchildren, Jack and Bessie, brought us such joy,” wrote Ms. Decker. “He and the kids visited the library regularly, even in our cramped temporary quarters.”

There were daffodils on most surfaces.
There were daffodils on most surfaces.

Ms. Decker recounted the little girl’s love of certain fairy books, and her grandfather’s doting presence. “Bessie would ask for a particular title, and Pat would have to bend his long, lanky body in half to peer at the titles on the lowest shelf. He treated her request with utmost respect and consideration, at the same time with a twinkle in his eye. The kids loved being read to, and he spent many hours reading patiently to them. He so honored them, their choices and their time together at the library,” Ms. Decker concluded.

“And so it makes perfect sense to honor him here,” said Ms. Mitchell. “Like town meeting, this too is a community gathering place in which he was a solid and comforting presence.”

The proposal to dedicate the lobby to Mr. Gregory had begun with library staff and officials, was quickly embraced by selectmen, and placed on the annual town meeting warrant in April. The voters approved the measure unanimously.

“Today,” continued Ms. Mitchell, “after nearly a year of mourning and remembrance, we follow the town meeting’s wishes, and hereby dedicate this space in memory of our dear friend and town moderator Pat Gregory.”

Pat Gregory's family: From left, Shannon, Bess, and Dorothy outside the newly dedicated Pat Gregory lobby in the West Tisbury library.
Pat Gregory’s family: From left, Shannon, Bess, and Dorothy outside the newly dedicated Pat Gregory lobby in the West Tisbury library.

Shannon Gregory Carbon, as had Ms. Mitchell, took a deep breath before speaking as she surveyed the crowd circled closely around her and her family.

“Visiting the library was a ritual for my father,” Ms. Carbon said. “On Monday nights, he and my mother had a standing date here. Other times, Dad waited patiently as our children, Jack and Bess, chose their books. And before that, he waited on my brother and me. How perfect that our beautiful library is in the heart of town. For me, it is our town’s beating heart. The stories, the poetry, the music, and the neighbors found here are nourishment for the soul. A library’s contents have healing power and can transform a person’s perspective — no matter where one resides.

“Again, a deep-felt thank you to West Tisbury, and beyond, for the kindness you have shown our family,” said Ms. Carbon. “My father would have loved to be here today.”

Then it was time for reminiscing, sharing, warm hugs. In the community room, tables offered savory snacks and cold drinks. A television monitor played the 2008 annual town meeting, Moderator Pat Gregory presiding.

“Pat Gregory was the epitome of a man who lived his life with grace,” said Lynne Whiting, member and former vice chair of the library foundation. “It will be wonderful each time we walk into the library to be reminded of him and how he treated others.”

The crowd at the dedication of the lobby at the West Tisbury Public Library.
The crowd at the dedication of the lobby at the West Tisbury Public Library.

“It would be far better to have Pat here,” said Sherman Goldstein, reflecting on a close, many-faceted friendship with Mr. Gregory that endured for decades. “Our lives intertwined in a wonderful tapestry. There’s a rent in the fabric of our lives without him.”

Dan Waters, library trustee and new town moderator, remembered Mr. Gregory’s assistance when he presented the library’s capital-campaign information at town meetings. “He helped me put my case before the voters,” Mr. Waters said. “He welcomed people into the process and made a safe place for them to speak.”

“We wanted to dedicate space to Pat, but not just from the library trustees or selectmen. It was important to make that gesture and have the voters speak in favor of it,” Mr. Waters explained. “This is the town’s lobby, and they voted for it. Our aim was to be as inclusive as possible, because that’s what Pat would have wanted.”

Lynne Whiting and Dan Waters.
Lynne Whiting and Dan Waters.

Linda Hearn, library board of trustees chairman, recalled her nervousness speaking about the measure at town meeting, and gratitude at the positive vote. “I think it’s very appropriate to dedicate the lobby to Pat,” she said. “He was a big part of the town, and this is really a town gathering place.”

“I was really pleased with the dedication ceremony,” said library director Beth Kramer. “It was quiet and respectful. We got to embrace Pat’s family and honor him. The fact that Dorothy and Shannon were pleased with it was the most important thing, and to have everybody there with them a year later.”

“It’s very much in keeping with what Pat would have done,” observed writer Niki Patton, admiring the simple gray plaque with black print, its wording chosen by the family. “He would have said, ‘Don’t make a fuss.’”

A group at the West Tisbury library practiced single rubber-stamp embossing as part of the library's adult crafting program. – Photo by Michael Cummo

“Libraries are increasingly becoming specialized community centers,” said Nelia Decker, children’s librarian of West Tisbury library, “offering classes and events focused on social and intellectual engagement for children and adult patrons alike.” The library’s event calendar reflects this progressive vision, enriching the community through a myriad of activities. This weekend was a prime example, with Family Crafting on Saturday morning, Tween Book-Making in the afternoon, and an adult Rubber-Stamp Workshop offered on Sunday by stamping aficionado and educator Martha Flanders.

“What I love most,” Ms. Flanders said after her Velvet Embossing class earlier this winter, “is to see how, with the same collection of stamps, and the same pieces of velvet, every participant comes up with something unique.” Ms. Flanders, librarian, crafter, and former owner of Good Ideas, a rubber-stamp shop in Vineyard Haven, taught the gentle, yet precise, technique of heat-embossed stamping on velvet in December. After a hiatus from teaching of nearly 10 years, her Velvet Embossing workshop was her first, and clearly her finesse for creative instruction has not faded.

Last Sunday afternoon, Ms. Flanders offered her second class in the series of rubber-stamp arts. Nearly a dozen local crafters gathered in the bright meeting room of the West Tisbury library to work on the simple and relaxing craft of rubber-stamp techniques. The participants practiced single rubber-stamp embossing, heat embossing, using various dyes and pigments for cards, scrapbooking, and memory-book making. Ms. Flanders generously offered her expertise in the entire process, and proved that when one looks for new ways to express creativity, local talent is one of our greatest community assets.

“We hope to offer more adult crafting workshops,” she told the class, “and we are open to suggestions from the community, as well as seeing if there is enough interest to offer more of these types of afternoons.”

To join the crafting mailing list, email the West Tisbury library at programs@westtisburylibrary.org, or visit the web site to view upcoming events at westtisburylibrary.org.

The West Tisbury Library joins Cradles to Crayons in a pajama drive, now through Friday March 13. Help keep kids safe and warm this winter by donating new pajamas during regular library hours. Cradles to Crayons provides children from birth to age 12, living in low-income and homeless situations, with the essential items they need to thrive — at home, at school, and at play. They supply these items free of charge by engaging and connecting communities that have with communities that need. For more information, visit cradlestocrayons.org.

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Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian David McCullough said libraries have shaped his career.

David McCullough thanks several main contributors the the library's success, including (from left) Tim Boland, Dan Waters and Beth Kramer. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The West Tisbury library board of trustees and the library foundation Sunday dedicated the new community program room of the newly renovated and enlarged West Tisbury public library to David and Rosalee McCullough. Hunter Moorman, chairman of the West Tisbury library foundation, thanked the McCulloughs and, in particular, Mr. McCullough for his four years as honorary chairman of the library foundation. A full presidential term, he noted, to laughs from the full house.

The McCulloughs, West Tisbury residents, were instrumental in raising funds to help pay for the $6 million dollar project. They were early donors to the project and in his role as honorary chairman of the foundation, Mr. McCullough, an acclaimed historian and author, drummed up support and funds; the library foundation ultimately raised over a quarter of the construction costs. The town picked up almost a quarter and almost half of the project’s cost was funded by matching funds from the state. The old 5,640-square-foot library was enlarged to 13,000 square feet and opened on March 22, after a 14-month construction period.

Mr. McCullough, a former West Tisbury library trustee, has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for “Truman” and “John Adams,” along with two National Book Awards, for “The Path Between the Seas” and “Mornings on Horseback.”

A narrator, historian, and lecturer, he is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award. Mr. Moorman cited the McCulloughsmany contributions to the library. These included a fundraiser for the library at the Agricultural Hall three years ago where Mr. McCullough, the guest speaker, spoke to a full house about his latest book, “The Greater Journey.”

“The McCulloughs gave the fledgling library foundation the faith and the courage to persist in what then seemed a daunting, uncertain task,” Mr. Moorman said. “They have lent their names, their fortunes and their warm and gracious encouragement to the foundation all along the way.”

In addition to the McCulloughs, Mr. Moorman thanked the library’s many other generous donors and praised the work of all who helped bring the project to its current stage, including library director Beth Kramer and her staff. He singled out the work of the library building committee and its countless hours of inspiration and work.

Mr. Moorman also noted the need for continued support from the public to complete unfinished details, such as the landscaping. He then introduced town selectman Richard Knabel and library trustee Dan Waters.

Mr. Knabel praised the McCulloughs — his neighbors — for their help with the library and for their contributions to the community as town residents.

“Our appreciation of their efforts and support for West Tisbury in general over many, many years, and especially for this library expansion project are deep and heartfelt,” he said. “Without their help we might not be sitting in this wonderful space. A jewel of a place such as this is a big part of the glue that holds our community together and is a necessary pillar for a functioning democracy.”

Mr. Waters, who guided much of the fundraising efforts, recalled a breakfast meeting with Ms. Kramer and the McCulloughs in the early stages of the fundraising drive. The McCulloughs told him they were prepared to give a sizable donation, the biggest donation they had ever given to an organization.

“They paid for breakfast,” Mr. Waters said, “and we thank them for that. On the way out the door, David tugged on my elbow and said, ‘this project will succeed.’

“He said that with that gravitas that only his voice has and it sort of sunk in. During the fundraising campaign we always had his words to fall back on, ‘this project will succeed.’ It was like a lesson from one of David’s history books.”

A personal history

After Mr. McCullough, with Ms. McCullough by his side, received a symbolic key to the library, he spoke about the time he was a library trustee, when the library was in the small building on Music Street across from the McCulloughs’ home. As a trustee, he had a key to the library.

“And for a number of years when we would have friends over for dinner, in our modest way,” Mr. McCullough said, “I would say, ‘would you like to adjourn to the library with a little brandy?’ And yes, we would cross Music Street and have a grand evening. It was a wonderful time.”

He spoke about his time living in West Tisbury. The McCulloughs now live in Boston for part of the year. He got a big laugh when he mentioned the time he drove his unwilling daughter to preschool in Edgartown. To cheer her up he began to sing, “I wish I were in the land of cotton.” She interrupted, “You would.”

Mr. McCullough emphasized his personal connection to West Tisbury and to libraries during the 35 years he has lived there.

“It would be unfair of me not to emphasize the degree to which the formative stages of both our marriage and my working life were all here,” Mr. McCullough said. “I am a library devotee. I believe in them. And of course they are also a part of my working life.

“I really believe in communicating with those to whom you’re writing, and I believe in giving credit to the many people who make the kinds of books that I and others write possible. One person gets a name on the dust jacket and that’s really not accurate or fair. And while I praise the existence of the institution of public libraries in our country, and I stress the importance of books above all as part of the learning process, I want to give credit where I think it is never sufficiently given, and that is to the librarians, the staff of libraries. I tell students I have worked with: don’t just go into a library because you are looking for some aspect of your research; talk to the librarians. Tell them what you want to do, what you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you don’t know because that is why they are there — to help you. And very often they know as much or more than many of the books that they are taking care of in the library.

“So I want to say to you, Beth, and to all who work with you: here’s to you, for the very important role you play not just in the town and in the Island community, but to the children, to the young people you are shaping in this library.”

Mr. McCullough talked about the effect that working in a library had on his career. He said that one summer while researching a paper in the Yale University library, where he was a student, he realized that he liked the work and for the first time begin to think there might be something like this he could do for the rest of his life.

“Every subject I have undertaken,” he said, “without exception, has been one that I didn’t know much about and if I knew all about it I wouldn’t want to undertake it, because for me the research, the detective casework of it, is the pulp. That’s the adventure. It’s going to a new continent you have never set foot on before and it builds, the more you do it. And almost all of my work has been in libraries.”

Mr. McCullough talked about his current project, the story of the Wright brothers from the small town of Dayton, Ohio — the first to fly. “They had a bicycle shop,” he said, “so they are commonly thought of as clever good ol’ small town mechanics who knew how to do anything, and of course they could figure out how to build something that could fly. And there is some truth to that, but it is far from what the reality was. Those two men were brilliantly educated, brilliantly motivated — geniuses — and they never finished high school.”

Mr. McCullough said that they grew up without any modern conveniences, in a small book-filled house. Their father, an itinerant minister who believed everybody should have books and should read, encouraged his sons to visit the public library whenever a book they needed wasn’t at home.

“The brothers were trying to figure out about propellers. Should a propeller be like a propeller on a ship? So they went to the public library, only to find that there was no theory about propellers on ships or on airplanes. There were no airplanes, so they had to work it all out themselves.

“Never doubt,” Mr. McCullough said, “that the public libraries have figured importantly in our history.”

He said that reporters would comment to Orville Wright late in his life, “‘It’s wonderful to think you grew up under such disadvantages’ and he would get quite angry. He would say, ‘no disadvantages. We had the greatest advantages anybody could ever have. We had access to books and a father who encouraged intellectual curiosity.’ What more does anybody need to get ahead in whatever it is they want to do?

“So, thank you, Beth, and thank you all who have helped keep this an emblem for what we believe in here in dear old, wonderful, exemplary West Tisbury.”

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From left: West Tisbury Free Public Library children's librarian Nelia Decker; Director Beth Kramer; library building committee chair Leah Smith; and chair of library board of trustees Linda Hearn. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The ribbon cutting ceremony at the grand opening of the newly renovated and enlarged West Tisbury Public Library had the feel of a turn of the last century public celebration. About 200 celebrants of all ages gathered on the second day of spring, in front of what is essentially a new building.

Cub Scouts in the flag ceremony--Pledge of Allegiance.
Cub Scouts in the flag ceremony–Pledge of Allegiance.

The sun peaked from behind the clouds, pretty much on schedule, as a brass band played. A den of Cub Scouts presented the colors. The crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the National Anthem and state, town, and library officials spoke.

Mary Ann Cluggish, representing the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, praised the vision and hard work of the library staff, the town, and the volunteers who brought the project to completion. She asked those gathered in front of her a series of questions. The crowd answered, as if part of a liturgical responsive reading.

“Is there any small town anywhere that uses its library more than West Tisbury?”

“No!” the crowd responded.

“Is there any other small town anywhere where 89 percent of the town has library cards?”

“No,” with loud applause.

“The commissioners congratulate the dozens and dozens who worked to make this project a reality,” she said.

Ms. Cluggish said the building is a collaboration of the community and gave special congratulations to the trustees, the library foundation, and to library director Beth Kramer.

“Her leadership moved this project forward with the help of the library staff and the legion of library volunteers,” she said.

Isaac and Emmett Taylor.
Isaac and Emmett Taylor.

The renovation-expansion project broke ground in December, 2012. The library was funded by $1.7 million raised from private donors by the West Tisbury library foundation, $1.5 million from the town and a state grant of $2.93 million.

Leah Smith, chairman of the library committee, Marilyn Hollinshead, from the friends of the library, and Hunter Moorman, chairman of the library foundation also gave thanks to the community for its support.

The ribbon was cut, the doors were opened, and the children moved quickly to the new spacious children’s room. “The kids look happy to find the toys they remembered from the old library,” Carly Look, a West Tisbury grandmother said.

Throughout the day people from all over the Island strolled through West Tisbury’s newest asset, sipping coffee, nibbling on cookies, catching up with old friends and finding new books.