Poets read to raise funds for the West Tisbury Library

Jennifer Tseng. — Photo courtesy of Dan Waters

With the warm glow from the State Road Restaurant fireplace behind them, Jennifer Tseng and her mother-in-law, Fanny Howe, both prize-winning poets from West Tisbury, headlined the third and final Speakeasy Series of author talks on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Their engaging and entertaining readings included background and notes, and the crowd, a full house, responded with questions and praise. Besides the hors d’oeuvres and light refreshments, attendees had the chance to mingle and speak with the poets in person, both before and after the readings.

State Road Restaurant, in collaboration with the West Tisbury Library Foundation Inc., presented this series of intimate evenings with noted authors to benefit the library’s capital campaign to finance their planned library addition and renovation. Earlier readings featured, on separate evenings, the married West Tisbury authors Tony Horwitz and Geraldine Brooks. In October, Ms. Brooks discussed her work as a writer and her latest book, “Caleb’s Crossing,” a novel based on the life of Gay Head (Aquinnah) Native American Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk here and at Harvard College, where he became the first Native-American graduate in 1665. In November, Mr Horwitz discussed his latest book, “Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War.”

The series has been so successful that Mary and Jackson Kenworth, owners of State Road, have agreed to resume it in the spring. Library board member Dan Waters said, “We’re looking at a list of exciting local writers, one of which is Alexandra Styron. Stay tuned for more news.”

The capital campaign is only about a year old, but the West Tisbury Library Foundation Inc. is near its fundraising goal of $1.5 million. Contributions and pledges total more than $1.2 million.

“The entire community has risen to the occasion,” Mr. Waters said, “pouring out support of all kinds: not just money, but talent and resources. Writers, artists, cooks, musicians — even apple-growers — have come forward to help.”

The library was awarded a matching grant of close to $3 million in state funds on July 7, 2011. The state has just extended the deadline the library must meet to raise the matching funds, from January 31 to just after the April town meeting when the foundation expects West Tisbury taxpayers to match library fundraising to secure the state grant so that the expansion work will be fully underwritten.

For the past several years, the library has been judged to be among the top 10 libraries of its size in the nation by a Library Journal rating index.

“We’re coming tantalizingly close to the day when some library-lover puts us over our $1.5 million target,” Mr. Waters said.