Library Director

An inviting new brick walkway
graces the Saunders House entrance.


         It has been 179 years since the founding of the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library, making it the oldest public institution in Gloucester.  The population of Gloucester at that time was about seven and a half thousand. What foresight the founding fathers of the Lyceum had and joined with the vision of Samuel E. Sawyer to create a great public institution in the then fairly small seaside community.  The thriving longevity of this wonderful institution is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of hundreds of men and women  - trustees, corporators, donors, patrons, staff and government officials.  They, as you who now join the historic ranks, were dedicated to the ideal of a free and public Library as an important cornerstone of a democratic republic, and a strong indicator of a thriving community.  You as Board members and corporators can trace your history back to local historian John James Babson who was a founding member of the Lyceum in 1830 and was President of the Board of Trustees in 1884 when he accepted the keys to the Library’s permanent home.  On that day, July 1, 1884, Gloucester’s most famous and generous philanthropist, Samuel E. Sawyer realized his dream when he purchased one of the most elegant homes in Gloucester, at the corner of Dale and Middle Street to give the Library a permanent home.  When asked to speak that day by President Babson, Sawyer remarked that it was “an occasion of peculiar interest, the consummation of a charming vision, a pleasant life-dream.”  The Saunders House, built in 1764 by Thomas Sanders, merchant, state representative and father of 12, was in Sawyer’s mind the “best site” in Gloucester.  Over the years it passed through several hands when in 1884 William A. Pew sold the then 165 year old house to Sawyer.  Sawyer presented the deed of the library property along with a $20,000 endowment to the trustees “for the benefit of the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library, which made it a perpetual gift to the citizens of the City of Gloucester…”  
         Our great benefactor would be particularly proud to see the splendid work accomplished this day in renovating this splendid house; to acknowledge that his dream was carried forward through the generosity of the Dusky Foundation and the many donors who contributed over the years.  He would be particularly proud of your efforts today as evidence your guardianship and care in perpetuating his vision and gift as a beacon of life long learning and pride in this community.  Despite the current economic challenges to Gloucester, the state and the nation, the revitalization of this great historic manse is a symbol of all that is good and positive in this community.  With great pride this morning the men and women – great craftspeople all – who contributed to this project were happily tending to last minute details. This morning house and grounds were buzzing with activity, as though a wedding were to be taking place.  Whistling in fact while they worked all were dedicated to making this great lady look its best.  Hilarie came with lawn mower and weedwacker to give the lawn its final trim and along came her crew pulling weeds and tidying between bricks and bushes.  Painters put final coats on secret places and Manny and his magic tools took care of added task in insulating the undercroft.  It is right that we salute their efforts tonight as well as the generosity of the Dusky Foundation and you the donors and supporters.  We should all extend special appreciation to Greg Bover.  As President of the Board he boldly stepped to the plate in making the right decisions to move us forward in restoring the pride of ownership in this historic institution.
          To illustrate the dedication of the contractors for this project I’ll share with you an incident that happened late Friday afternoon on the eve of what was to be a very rainy northeaster.  An observant staff member pointed out a concern after the work crew that left regarding a downspout that seemed threatening in its lack of anchorage.  I called Steve Goodick’s office and remarked to his wife that I was concerned about this apparently loose downspout.  After a short time  the staff member called me to say, “You certainly have great power of command.  They just showed up to check things out and it hasn’t even been ten minutes!”  Now I’d like to think that I could command some things to happen that quickly, that I had the power, but I happen to know it is Steve’s concern for this building in his community and the care that he exercises in doing the best he possibly can that brought him here so quickly.
          Now to the business of the Library.  Just as many other libraries across the Commonwealth, we are busier than ever.  15,841 registered borrowers accounted for a are 10,000 item increase in circulation figures over last year -  from 153,600 to 163,000 books, CD’s, DVD’s downloadables, audiobooks and more.  Nearly 16,000 residents – that means ½ the population of Gloucester have library cards!!  Our incoming interlibrary loan materials were up 3,000 items from 15,000 to 18,000.  Over 500 men, women and children visited the Library each day totaling 155,682.  They came not to pay taxes or attend mandatory meetings, but they came willingly and eagerly to find information, attend programs of interest, amusement, or education; to search for jobs or email relatives; to locate that hard to find DVD or seek help to find that obscure poem; they came to seek help filling out tax information, to prepare for an exam or find help with homework assignments; they came to find a resource to help them find the words to tell a child of the death of a loved one or to find a favorite story to read over and over at bedtime.  They came in greater numbers in the advent of a storm to stock up on the “milk” of intellectual stimulation – a good book.  They eagerly returned in greater numbers after a holiday closed the library for one extra day.  Over 5600 children and their families attended story hours and programs such as the wonderful Audubon animal programs which attract large audiences; to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday or make special valentines.  Children learned about haiku and made their own cards; they learned about the life of Virginia Lee Burton and sang Happy 100th Birthday to Mike Mulligan’s “mother.”  Class after class came from St. Ann’s and Eastern Point Day School to find books and learn how to use the library and internet resources.
         Nearly 3,000 men, women and teens attended nearly 100 Lyceum and Young Adult programs.  They heard John Ronan read from his recently published book; they came to hear about Clarence Birdseye, and greenheads and Rufus Collinson’s read selections from her work.  They grew teary as they listened to the hardships of pioneer women in the northwest  in “Oh, How Can I Keep on Singing.”  They came to learn about interior color in their homes and to hear Chris Leahy as he packed the house talking about winter birds on Cape Ann.  Jewelry and community organizer, Leslie Wind recreated the homelike hearth and fire with her special “Know Your Neighbor” programs, featuring neighbors teaching neighbors how to knit socks and scarves and write memoirs.  Teens came to learn drumming and enter photo contests.  The community came to purchase great art and support the library at the Art Auction and as they also came to purchase books at bargain prices at the Friends Book and Bake Sale.  And finally, over 350 came on the summer’s first quintessential Sunday afternoon to City Hall to hear former Senator George McGovern speak in fulfillment of a promise made years ago.
         Our great successes were hard won and in some cases were overshadowed by the City’s fiscal challenges.  The FY09 budget as I reported to you last year was under funded which required our petitioning the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for a waiver.  In April of this year, in order to avoid layoffs, the Mayor called for an early retirement incentive which resulted in our losing 3 of our 11 full time staff members, which included the Head Children’s Librarian and our recently hired reference librarian.  This left us with one full time person in the children’s library and one reference librarian to staff a desk for just 32.5 hours of the 63 that we were open!  I am proud to say the staff rallied and just as other city employees, they took on extra duties to keep the library open, but just barely.  Gone was the time for planning, goal setting, and visioning.  There was just time to maintain.  Plans for new programs and initiatives were shelved.  More volunteers were enlisted to carry some of the burden.  As a result the FY 2010 budget left the library egregiously cut – over $120,000 less than the minimum to become certified.  We had to apply for another waiver.  As if that weren’t enough, at the eleventh hour the Library and Senior Center were put on the chopping block in the face of legal action taken by the fire department.  Fortunately, the Council accepted the Mayor’s first proposed budget and we were spared, but not before a rallying cry brought enough supporters to pack City Hall and overwhelmingly substantiate the support for library services.  Understanding the heavy cuts to the library’s staff, the Mayor generously permitted the library to hire a new Head Librarian, in spite of the citywide hiring freeze.
         Before I introduce to you our new Head Children’s Librarian, I’d like to close with a few acknowledgments for those we lost and those who stayed behind.  Reference librarian Jen Searl and library assistant Jeanne Anderson left in April with the early retirement incentive.  Cathy Talty, Head Children’s Librarian for over 15 years retired in late March.  Custodian Joe Biondo transferred to DPW maintainence but was replaced by Raoul Requejo.  Page Jake Darcy left in July but was replaced by Nicole Dahlmer.  To all the remaining staff I owe a huge debt of gratitude.  They stepped up without a complaint to fill in as best they could.  Christy Rosso stepped up as Acting Children’s Librarian, the only full time person in that department.  With her other hand she somehow managed the Library’s website.  Helen Freeman takes on any task I asked of her, giving me complete and thorough feedback.  Stella had the aggravation of managing a schedule that would barely stretch; Gail staffing reference and filling in for pages.  Valerie manned the desk extra hours and served as tech backup and YA support.  Cindi sometimes doubled as YA and reference keeping one foot on either end of the mezzanine.  Least I forget her most glorious accomplishment, together with her YA advisory committee and the help of teacher and volunteer, Carol Kelly, Cindi was able to earn a two year $20,000 grant for the YA department.  Judy Oski attempted valiantly to fill the job of 2 reference librarians, and John Prybot served extra duty on the desk and sometimes ran paging lists 3 times a day to keep up with interlibrary loan demands.  But a very special hats off to our 4 sole part timers – Jean Dugan, Lisa Ryan, Justine Vitale, and Christine Garcia Akers.  They have really stepped up working different hours every week, filling in vacation and sick time of regular staff often coming in a the last minute desperate call from Stella.  I want to also thank the Friends committee and the many other volunteers.  With the building project and many other tasks usually left to the still vacant Assistant Director’s position, I did not have the time to meet with and encourage them in all they do, yet they never failed to be there when needed.  Tom Byers, there are no words to convey how much he means to the Library and how much a part of the staff he is.  Linda has done another wonderful job with her displays and photography and has also taken on many extra duties as well as overseeing volunteers in addition to her regular duties as Audio-visual Librarian.  The City and the DPW continue to be supportive to every extent they can.  Mark Cole and Frank Benson are always a phone call away.
         David McAveeney steps down this year after nine years of service on the Board of Directors, including serving as President.  David has a long history of supporting the Library.  When I began working as Assistant Director more than eleven years ago, as owner of the Pressroom, David was printing large colored poster calendars using art owned by the Library.  He would print hundreds at his own expense and donate them to the Library to sell and keep the money.  He did this for many years.  When I was Acting Director in 2000 and he learned of the wonderful gift of the house behind the Library by Arthur Ryan, he wanted eagerly to join the board to lead the fundraising for a newly expanded Library.  As board member David provided an invaluable service, one that keeps on giving.  He not only launched our first Annual Appeal drive, but for several years continued to pay for the stationery, printing, folding and collating for over 2,000 items.  This year we continue with our 8th Annual Appeal drive.  Through David’s generosity and foresight and the generosity of many, many donors including you in this room, we have been able to purchase hundreds of books, equipment, shelving and make many needed repairs and updates to the building.  This year we also included the new landscaping project and have plans to continue in the future.  We will miss David’s great spirit and drive to get things done.  We wish him well in his retirement and plans for the rest of his life.
         In his dedication speech in 1884 Sam Sawyer spoke about the most prominent motive or object of his life, which was to promote the best interest of the young, for in them he said “lie the germ the roots and fibres of civilization.  Books are the food of the mind; from the earliest years of childhood books are sought to feed the intellect.”  It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you a person who also believes as Samuel Sawyer in the importance of bringing together children and books.  Our new Head Children’s Librarian, Christy Rosso to share with you her thoughts and plans for children and families.

Respectfully submitted,

Carol Gray
Library Director