Library History — 1900 to 1950

1906 – The Association voted to “give the use of the juvenile department to the pupils of the public schools for a six-month period provided the parents will be responsible for the books”

1911 – The Association offered at Town Meeting to give the library, located over the bank, to the town if the town would appropriate 2 1/2 per cent of the grand list to operate the library ($500). This was matched by the Association. Town voters agreed. The library now became public and free. Miss Carrie Damon was hired at 20 cents an hour to check in books and shelve them.

1914 – Four of the seven district schools had book collections provided by the library. “The large increase in the number of patrons since the library was made free has been followed by the natural effect on the books and very many books should be replaced.” Annual circulation was 23,491 of which 60% was fiction, 14% non-fiction and 26% was children’s. Average daily loans totaled 78. Fines for the year totaled $103.38. “Maps showing the progress of the war have also been posted…” Report of the Librarian, Susan E. Archibald

1915 – 1,911 members borrowed 23,491 items from a collection of nearly 9,000 volumes.

1917 – “The librarian urges anyone interested in the welfare of Middlebury, to consider seriously whether it is not worth while to provide a library building where the work done for the young people and children shall compare favorably with that done in other towns in Vermont.” Annual Report of the Librarian
The Ladies’ Library Association collected 800 pounds of books and magazines for the troops overseas and displayed books, maps, and reports on the war. Posters urged conservation of food.

1918 – The library closed in October due to the epidemic. A branch library was established in the home of Miss Sessions in East Middlebury.

1919 – “Did Library Help Win War?” “Who can say that the over-subscription made by the town in loans and Red Cross and other drives for relief, was not due, in part at least, to the awakening influence of the war books taken from the library?” Annual Report of the Librarian

Col. Silas Ilsley left $25,000 in his will to the town for the purpose of building a library; this was later augmented by a gift of $25,000 from his widow, Mrs. Ilsley

1920 – Miss Damon was appointed librarian.

1921 – The deed for the land was conveyed October 18, for $1 by Jesse Osborne.

1922 – “The library needs a typewriter. The printing of catalogue cards by hand is slow work and takes time that could be used to better advantage in some other branch of library work.” Annual Report of the Librarian (the 1923 Report stated that a typewriter was obtained)

1924 – The present building was completed at a cost of $54,000; it had 7,782 sq. ft. The dedication was held Thursday, September 25.

1925 – Vacation loans were extended for residents to borrow books when leaving town. Residents were asked to leave their post office address should there be a demand for these books.

1926 – Circulation at the East Middlebury Station was 1,914 with 209 new registrations

1928 – “..from a surplus of books sent in from outside of the state last year for Vermont library flood relief, books would be sent to Middlebury Library.” Minutes of the Ladies’ Library Association, September 27. Application cards were first printed. Broken windows, malfunctioning drains, and high coal prices were discussed.

1929 – At the annual meeting of the two boards, it was decided that the same amount as in 1928 be asked for at March meeting, i.e. 8% of the Grand List. Throughout the year the Ladies board met to select titles for purchase. A new janitor was hired to clean the building at 40 cents an hour. The front pillars were “defaced” and needed to be cleaned.

1930 – From the December 5th minutes of the Ladies’ board: “The matter of disturbance in the library by certain high school students was presented by Miss Damon and best means for handling the situation were discussed.” A vacuum cleaner was demonstrated to the board but “action of purchase” was deferred.

1932 – Officers of the Ladies’ Library Association were president, Mrs. Dickens, Vice- President, Mrs. Skillings, Secretary, Mrs. Burrage, Treasurer, Miss Dean, and Auditor, Mrs. Melleu.

1934 – Library was still known as Middlebury Public Library The building was closed 10 days in October because the heating system broke. Books of a general nature were increasingly of interest while poetry was had “almost a complete lack of interest.” The Middlebury College library planned to adopt some of the library’s “methods in the purchase of books of general interest.”

1935 – Due to a critical financial situation, the board voted to purchase no more than five books at a time. While the idea of a fashion show to raise money was discarded, a list of the library’s first editions was sent to Boston for appraisal. Children were limited to borrowing three books at a time, only two of which could be fiction.

1936 – The salary of Miss Damon, librarian, was reduced to $70.00 a month for 25 hours a week.

1937 – 31 magazines and newspapers were received, of which 14 were gifts. Daily average loans were 64 Prof. Werner Neuse spoke to a meeting of the Vermont Library Association on “Present Day Germany.”

1938 – New reading room lights were ordered. The basement was used by W.P.A. workers in connection with the Sheldon Art Museum.

1939 – Membership dues to the Ladies Library Association were $28.00 a year. Service to the East Middlebury library was discussed. The Grapes of Wrath, while often requested, was not purchased because it would cause “too much adverse comment.”

1940 – At the annual meeting of the Ladies’ Library Association, Dr. Foote asked why The Grapes of Wrath was not in the library. In February the board agreed to purchase the book and asked that the librarian “keep track of its loan.” A new heating plant was needed. The policy of not reserving novels was reversed.

1941 – Three new children’s magazines were ordered: Child Life, Wee Wisdom, and Play Mate. The two cent charge to reserve a book was abolished. The ladies board discussed a complaint about Here’s to Crime by C.R.Cooper. While it was acknowledged to have some sensational material in it, the intent was not sensational but informative and the board decided to keep it (noting that it was, after all, “pretty old hat”).

1942 – Old magazines and discarded books were cleaned from the basement so that the American Red Cross could use the space as a surgical dressings room. Rental books (“lighter fiction”) were discontinued due to lack of interest. Fiscal year changed to end January 1 instead of February 1.

1943 – The librarian was invited to attend the first half of the board meetings in order to suggest books to purchase and to raise other business matters.

1944 – A two cent charge to reserve a book was re-instituted with a limit of two reservations per person. A story hour for children was begun. Discarded books were either given to the College library or sold for waste paper. Rental books were resumed. The Board sold the Cedar County farm (Duval property) which had presumably been given to the board as a bequest. 10 or 12 books were lent “to the ladies at the old ladies home.”

1945 – Burlington Free Press subscription started. Mrs. Gertrude Ilsley Padelford donated the oil painting of a young newsboy. The Board discussed “furnishing a corner of the basement room to be used as a ‘rest room’ by the librarians.” The Board sold the Vauscoy farm for $739.22 and purchased a $1000 government bond. A kindergarten was begun in the basement room and play equipment erected in the back of the library.

1946 – The Board discussed an editorial in the Burlington Free Press on the 15% import tax on foreign books. The tax was to protect American publishers. The Board sought to work with the League of Women Voters to rescind this tax.

1947 – The salary of Mrs. Minkler, assistant librarian, was increased from .40 to .50. The library purchased books through the wholesaler, Baker and Taylor (we still do) and discounts were an issue (they still are). One quarter of new books was juvenile, one quarter non-fiction, and one half was fiction.

1948 – The Board discussed linking with the East Middlebury Library or school. “Who runs the Community House? Mrs. Herricks offered to inquire.” One hundred eight Boy Scout pamphlets (merit badge) were donated. Dick Hubbard was consulted about insurance. Much discussion about building a metal fire escape to the third floor. Town meeting appointed a committee “to draw up plans to improve parking congestion.” The committee recommended constructing a parking area behind the library for 35 cars. Ex-Governor Weeks “strongly hoped that such a use of the Library property would not be necessary.”