More than Books

Jun 20, 2018

We still need libraries. But what is their role in the age of the internet? And why, in a state with so many beautiful libraries, is it such a challenge to keep them going?

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This Episode’s Featured Object:

Brooks Memorial Library Souvenir

Mary Labate Rogstad: Starting about 1890, businesses had the idea to put a photograph or an image on an object, and to sell it as a souvenir to the people that were coming in to the state.

Paul Carnahan: It seems to me that this is a particularly nice one, in that it’s got a colored image of the Brooks Library. It’s got nice gold leaf handles, it’s very bright and attractive. I can see how someone would be interested in purchasing this to take home.

Images: “The Young Trumpeter” sculpture by Margaret Foley at the Bixby Memorial Library. Foley was a self-taught prodigy who grew up in Vergennes in the early 1800s.

William Hosley is a preservationist who lectures on the history of New England libraries for the Vermont Humanities Council.

(Top) Jane Spencer (left) and Paula Moore beneath the stained-glass ceiling in the Bixby Memorial Library.

(Bottom) Joy Worland works for the Vermont Department of Libraries and specializes in small and rural libraries.

Episode Transcript

William Hosley: This is now 35 years ago that I started this habit, of pulling over and visiting historic libraries, older libraries. I even have a bumper sticker on my car that says, “I Brake for Historic Libraries.”

William Hosley is a preservationist who lectures on the history of New England libraries for the Vermont Humanities Council.

William: Today, probably most towns in Vermont also have a local museum, a local historical society, but in almost every case the library predates the historical society, and so there were long periods of time when the library was kind of the center of culture and learning and continuing education in their communities.

Vermont has 183 public libraries, the most per capita in the country. Maybe that number says something important about our state.

William : I mean the libraries…after houses of worship, the library was the next-most aspirational thing a town would build. I think a town with an aspirational and impressive library is sending a message, not only to the world beyond but to its own citizens, about where its priorities lie.  

Read the full transcript.

Episode Credits

Before Your Time is presented by the Vermont Historical Society, the Vermont Humanities Council, and VTDigger. This episode was produced by Mike Dougherty and Ryan Newswanger, with help from Mary Labate Rogstad and Paul Carnahan. Thanks to our guests, William Hosley, Joy Worland, Jane Spencer, and Paula Moore.