Friday, April 13, 2012

My Local Library

by Sheila Connolly

 Shoot, I had a nice post all ready to go and then I had a "doh!" moment. We're celebrating National Library Week, and I've got a nice library in walking distance, whose materials and services I actually do use, so I shifted gears and wrote this tribute to the Middleborough Public Library.

My experience with libraries got off to a slightly rocky start. I learned to read early, so to keep me supplied with books my mother got me a library card when I was five. One small problem: when I took books from the library, I believed they belonged to me, so I kind of neglected to return them (which does not explain why I hid them under my bed). Needless to say my mother was not pleased, and my library privileges were suspended for a time. But not for long, and I've had plenty of library cards since, including one for the National Library in Dublin (Ireland).

I moved to Middleboro, Massachusetts nine years ago and obtained a library card; so did my daughter. The library (a block from the town's only stoplight) is housed in a handsome building with an interesting history. Middleboro is an old town, founded in 1669, originally part of the original Plymouth settlement. The town center (mainly the First Congregational Church, a massive 18th-century cemetery, and the original school house) lay a few miles to the north of the current center—I think the shift occurred when the railroad came through.

Town Hall (yes, it still looks like this)

The rules for a town library were approved at a town meeting in 1875, when it was located in the large Victorian town hall. It outgrew that space by 1885 and was moved to a larger space in the same building, with an added reading room. But it became possible for the town to build a new standalone library thanks to a bequest of $500,000 in 1901, given by resident Thomas S. Peirce (yes, e before i). The building was built quickly (on land formerly owned by the Peirce family) and opened in 1904. The library still occupies the same space.

Who was Thomas Peirce? A successful shopowner. His father Peter erected a strikingly large general store in Middleboro in 1826, and sired eleven children (which he himself defined as "very queer children"). Only three married, and none had children, so Thomas ended up inheriting the whole pot.

Middleborough Police Station

The store still stands, a sprawling neo-classical edifice across the street from the library. It currently houses the town's police department (not very comfortably!).

Until I wrote this, I hadn't realized how much I have used the library in the past nine years. I've borrowed books; I've contributed books (mostly mysteries, including mine); I've used their genealogy resources, and even helped catalog some of them; I've attended public events there. I'm a Friend of the Middleborough Public Library, and that means I'm a contributor as well.

Cataloging at the library

I can't imagine a town without a library—and I don't want to. Please support your local library!


Jerry House said...

My hometown of Chelmsford Massachusetts has a really neat library -- it was used as the model for the Springfield Town Hall in THE SIMPSONS.

suz said...

What a lovely tribute to your library. I am also someone who could never imagine living in a town without a library. Our Max Milam Library is not as old as yours, but the staff is a fantastic group of folks, ever ready to offer assistance. Good post. Thank you for sharing.

Sandra Parshall said...

A library is a vital part of any community, and it breaks my heart to see budgets for library services being slashed, as if they were non-essential.