This has been an extraordinary year, in the true sense of the word–something so outside our ordinary, something we did not plan for or expect. It’s been a year that has made us at the library grateful for ways to still connect, even though they may be different, and has also made us aware of things we miss when they’re taken out of our lives, showing their true value.
I was writing a community letter that ended up being disrupted by the work preparing for changes due to COVID-19, and then the shutdown soon afterward. It’s interesting reading the introduction, where I said that I thought we would be reading reflections all year long. Instead, this year is turning out to be one has turned many of those reflections on their head.
Yet, now feels like a good time to share. I want to give a window into a few different seasons in the life of the library–100 years ago in 1920, 20 years ago in 2000, and last year. I think you might find it interesting. I’ll share pieces of it here over the next few days, and then you’ll be able to find the whole thing on our website next week.
To the best of my knowledge, this year marks 100 years that the library has been running continuously. While the library first opened in 1903, and was chartered in 1906, the library had to close for a few years because there wasn’t someone to run it. In 1920, the library opened again in a few rooms of another building, and the push to fund a building gained momentum. The new library building opened seven years later, the same building we’re in today.
When I look at what the library has done in the last few months, in the last year, in the last 20 years, and in the last 100, it’s fascinating. Library services have changed, as well they should, and in some ways dramatically, and I hope they continue to evolve. But at their core, libraries, including ours, are much what they’ve always been.
Libraries are community corridors, a place where people and information intersect. Through a library, people can meet goals and find joy, whether it’s filling out applications to find a new job, reading more with their children, meeting people in the area, or escaping somewhere far away through a story.
One hundred years ago the services Lowville Free Library offered our community were different than what were offered 20 years ago and last year. This year is different still. But I think what we work towards each year is the same: Making a place where people can find things that make their lives a little better.
Funding is a constant consideration for all libraries. Support from our community though both public funding and donations is vital, and has been throughout our history.
In 1920, the library’s future in Lowville changed. With funding from the Village of Lowville and miscellaneous small amounts, the library’s operating budget was $1,257. Discussions about a permanent library building were occurring, particularly as significant donations of land, buildings, and funds were being made across the north country for libraries, and the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter had been building a fund with the vision of building a permanent library.
In November, a lot on Dayan Street was donated by Mrs. Charles J. Reeder and Mrs. Harry P. Gould for the construction of a library, “ideally located for a public library building,” according to the Journal and Republican and Lowville Times. The donation was a location that had been in their family for three generations, and was given in memory of the sisters’ parents, Rufus J. Richardson and Jennie Rogers Richardson. The Journal and Republican and Lowville Times noted: “Although the donors of the site are not now residents of Lowville, yet their interest in the welfare and improvement of their native town is evident and should be an incentive to carry on the splendid work already begun.”
By the end of the year, plans were presented to construct the library building, not to exceed a cost of $35,000, which was already in process of being raised with various donations and bequests.
In 2000, public funding sources were the same as they have been since, though with different amounts: Lowville Academy and Central School District, Village of Lowville, Town of Lowville, Town of Watson, and Lewis County. Grants also made up part of the library’s funding, including a grant from the Pratt Northam Foundation to fund a summer workership, which we have received in the years since, including last year.
Last year, in addition to the Pratt Northam grant which covered a coordinator position for the summer reading program, a grant from Stewart’s Shops covered supplies and programming for the summer reading program.
We received a Beacon Grant from Elks Lodge #1605 which allowed us to do our storywalk at Lowville DEC, which has graciously hosted us for 10 years now! The Beacon Grant also funded another year of Hooked on Books in 2019, a literacy program with Lewis County HeadStart classrooms.
With a grant from Northern New York Community Foundation, we started a coding lab for ages 3-12.
And finally, we received a grant-in-aid from Assemblyman Blankenbush, which is being used for various projects at the library, including updating technology.
Our public funding increased last year, with a proposition on the LACS ballot with William H Bush Memorial Library in Martinsburg, which was approved by 87% of the vote. Along with all libraries in Lewis County, we received a requested increase from Lewis County.
While this year looks different, and programs, projects, and some of the grants that fund them have changed or been postponed, we still have received so much support from community members and organizations as we responded to this year, including financial, collaboration, and encouragement. We look forward to continuing to build services for our community and the relationships that are their foundation.
Left: Portraits of Mrs. Reeder and Mrs. Gould’s grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. Below: A plaque in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, and a plaque for the Lowville Daughters of the American Revolution.
In 1920, the collection of Lowville Free Library was about 6,000 items.
In 2000, the collection of Lowville Free Library was 15,172 items, including books, magazines, ‘talking books,’ and a few other items.
At present, our collection is 26,077 items, which includes books, audiobooks, videos, and other miscellaneous items, including special collections like our game library. The substantial addition is the e-materials that we offer to patrons now, including books, audio, magazines, and other resources.
Last year, we circulated 24,992 items, including books, audiobooks, e-materials, and special collection items. Almost 7,000 of those were children’s items, and 4,600 were e-materials. We worked with other libraries to provide all patrons with a wider selection of materials by sending and receiving over 8,000 items in interlibrary loan through the course of the year.
A few new books added during 1920 were noted in the newspaper, and included Glory Rides the Range, by Edith Dorrance and James Dorrance, and Mary Marie, by Eleanor H. Porter. A substantial number of books were added to the collection that year, and, while they weren’t noted, perhaps included The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first Hercule Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie, and The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, both published in 1920.
In 2000, Jane O’Connor, a loyal supporter of the library, wrote a column in the newspaper a couple times a month, usually giving two books that she had read, along with other new books at the library, and library news or events. Some of the new books that she mentioned are authors who are still familiar and popular in our library, including James Patterson and Sandra Brown. One of the notable books she mentioned being added that year was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Favorite authors in our library today continue to be John Grisham and Jodi Picoult, with Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid being the favorite juvenile series (though Harry Potter still holds its ground).
In both 1920 and 2000, tracking circulation was done by hand. There are still cards in the back of some of our books with due dates from 2000 (the oldest circulation date on any of the cards I’ve found in our current collection are from the 1950s). Patrons searched for books in the drawers of the card catalog and books were checked out to them by making a note of their number and the due date on the borrowing card, with the date also stamped in the back of the book.
In 2000, though, discussions had started about automation, which would take place over the next few years, leading to the online catalog and computerized circulation system we use today.
Notes: In the photos–while they weren’t at the library in 1920, the oldest marked date in a book in our current collection are two books from 1936, both inscribed to the library by their authors–Drums Along the Mohawk, by Walter Edmonds, and A Further Range, by Robert Frost. These copies do not circulate.
Programs are a wonderful way that we get to interact with our community, and they bring so much life to the library. They’re one of the things that we have been sorry to miss in their usual form, but even in a changed format, have still brought a lot of joy to our work this year.
In 1920, one of the programs noted in the paper was Children’s Book Week, held in early December, with daily storytimes, storybook character, and garden decorations, with festive-themed books.
In 2000, the highlight of programming was the summer reading program, with an end-of-summer picnic. Also during that year, a Dr. Seuss Birthday Party, music in the park, and dramatic readings took place.
Last year, we expanded the programming we offer for children. While a weekly Tuesday storytime and summer reading are longstanding programs at the library, and school break programs have been some of our most popular for several years, last year we started offering monthly programs for school-aged children, including coding with the lab provided by the grant from Northern New York Community Foundation, and crafts. We started Saturday Storytimes once a month, which were so fun (and we were so sorry to miss our scheduled spring storytimes this year), and regularly read at other community locations and special events. Some favorites were interactive books by Christie Matheson during storytime, and annual visits for Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
While children’s events are a large portion of what we do, we also held teen and adult programs, including painting and essential oils. A book club regularly meets here, and we end up getting books for various clubs around the county.
Our fundraising events are also a highlight of the year. Last year, the garden tour sold more tickets than any previous year. We also hosted Search and Sip, our first annual Lewis County Scavenger Hunt. Both were wonderful, and we’re so grateful for all the businesses and individuals who donated time, locations, supplies, and funds to make both of them successful. While we cancelled the garden tour this year, we look forward to bringing it back next year, and cannot wait for the second annual Scavenger Hunt this year.
Through the last months, particularly while we were not in the building, offering programs through alternative means has been a bright spot, though we miss seeing everyone. This spring our Kids Club included storytimes, read alouds, and challenges. And though this summer’s reading program looked so much different than previous years, with virtual Around Our Town and Smiling Stories programs, pick-up Traveling Tuesday and Kits and Crafts, and the storywalk at DEC, we were so glad to still be a part of so many people’s summers.
Like I said at the beginning, we see people meet goals and find joy in our library every day, and through them, we do the same.
Thank you for your support of the library. We love being a part of your lives! Together, we can continue to create this space in our community where people can find books, technology, programs, relationships, and so much more that make their life a little better.