Sometimes used as a foundation material, bricks have become a material source of funds for the West Tisbury Library Foundation. For $150, a donor can buy a brick inscribed with three lines of type that will become a permanent part of the walkway leading to the recently renovated library.
More than 750 bricks have been purchased and almost $100,000 raised since 2011, when the project was started. The money goes to help fund unfinished library projects, such as the landscaping, beyond the building construction budget, according to Wendy Nierenberg, a retired educator who heads up the brick campaign.
“We also hope to build an endowment that will produce income every year to help offset library budget items,” she said. “Buying a brick is an exciting way to leave a permanent mark in the town and support the library at the same time. The inscriptions often honor family members. New births, grandchildren and memorials are high on the list as are appreciations of family and friends and of West Tisbury in general and the library in particular.
“People call from all over the country to buy bricks. It is just lovely. Some have placed orders from foreign countries. Almost everybody who has purchased bricks has an Island connection of some sort, but there have been several purchases from people buying bricks for people they know on the Island.”
The library reopened on March 22 after a $6 million dollar renovation. The old 5,640-square-foot library was enlarged to 13,000 square feet. The library foundation ultimately raised more than one 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.
Ms. Nierenberg said there is plenty of room for new donors. “We have sold about half or our bricks. We have room for about 1,500 when we are done.”
Many bricks contain names of old Island families — Mayhew, Whiting, Norton — as well as summer residents. There are names of well-known authors and Island businesses and tributes to pets and some with just names in support of the library. There are cryptic slogans and praises for the library and its staff.
“With fond memories of summer reading,” reads one. Another from a ten year old says “Be a bookworm.” “Thanks for the memories,” reads another and an encouragement to read, “Readers live a thousand lives,” is on another. “Reading is breathing.” And the simple but heart-felt “We love this library.”
“There is no frigate like a book to take us worlds away.” And a tribute to a spouse “You are my brick.” “Our favorite place to read and learn.” “ For the love of reading.” And a nod to digitization, “Thanks for keeping the books.” And to the library director, “You planted the seed and the library bloomed.”
Cathy Minkiewicz, treasurer of the library foundation, decided to honor her four-legged friends. “My pets, dating back to childhood — Ariel, Osa, Obi, Becket, Krakus, Belle, Sinbad, and Aza — all fit onto one brick,” she said.
“It’s amazing, the number of people I see on the pathway just looking at what people have written,” Ms. Nierenberg said. There are so many bricks that the library staff has a folder at the front disk with the bricks plotted on a map with numbers and names so they can be found by brick hunters.
Each brick may contain up to three lines of 20 characters. Brick orders can be made on line at the library foundation website or by calling Ms. Nierenberg at 508-693-0800.