Vineyard Haven library hosts public debate screenings

The Vineyard Haven library will host screenings of the upcoming Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. —Lynn Christoffers

Among the 84 million people who watched the first 2016 presidential debate last week was a group of viewers gathered at the Vineyard Haven library. 54 Islanders settled in to the library’s comfortable viewing room to witness the two presidential candidates duke it out. The library staff uses a projected image against a blank wall for all of their movie and event screenings, so audience members got to watch larger-than-life images of the two contenders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

It has become tradition at the Vineyard Haven library to screen all of the presidential and vice presidential debates and the election returns. “We’ve done this every year since 2002,” adult programming director Betty Burton said. “There are two reasons that people come. Some people live alone and want to watch somewhere where they can get together and talk before and after, and then some people don’t have cable TV at home.”

Unlike last week’s debate audience at Hofstra University, there was no cheering or commentary at the library, despite the fact that there were both Republicans and Democrats in attendance. “People were very polite,” Ms. Burton said. “I think everybody wanted to hear everything.”

Ms. Burton was very pleased, though not surprised, at the turnout. In her 15 years directing programs at the library, she’s found that Vineyarders are very interested in what’s going on beyond the boundaries of our small Island. “People seem to want to be as up to date as they can on world affairs,” she said.

This past summer, the library hosted a talk with one of the country’s top experts in terrorism and another with a member of Human Rights Watch. Every year for the past five years, the Great Decisions Discussion Group, a nationwide discussion program on world affairs, has attracted a large crowd to the library. Topics covered during the 2016 season included U.N reform, climate change, and the rise of ISIS. Each reading and DVD viewing is followed by a lively debate.

The vice-presidential debate will be shown at the library on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 9 pm. The presidential debate series will continue on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 9 pm. Lemonade and popcorn will be served. All are welcome.

For more information, call 508-696-4211 or visit